Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bolivia presents Bolivia presents Resolution “Harmony with Mother Earth” at the UN

The winds of change, they are a blowing. Values are suddenly the currency of the day. Time magazine believes we have the beginnings of a Responsibility Revolution. But to establish what those responsibilities are, the values that underpin them have to be determined first. Values are the bedrock of the new world that we are creating. So what of these values? Interestingly, it is not just the talk of imposed value (ie.monetary), rather intrinsic values. An intrinsic value is defined as 'the value of something in and for itself, irrespective of its utility for someone else'. What of the intrinsic value of our Planet? That is just what the Bolivians have suggested we address, along with the support of a further 22 nations.
Last week, on the 12th November, the Bolivian Ambassador Mr. Pablo Solon presented to the UN a Draft Resolution Presentation Speech “Harmony with Mother Earth” co-sponsored by Algeria, Benin, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Eritrea, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mauritius, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Seychelles and Venezuela. The resolution seeks recognition of the Earth as a Whole and the interaction of human beings with that system of which we are a part.

Mr Solon stated to the UN: “We acknowledge and share the progress of the environmental agenda of the United Nations at the level of the biodiversity, the ozone layer, desertification, climate change and other sectors, but we are convinced that this needs to be supplemented with a more holistic approach given the serious global impacts we are witnessing.”

Of the approximately 200 items that the United Nations General Assembly Agenda has, about 10 deal with the environment and sustainable development, and none directly addresses the holistic, global and integrated relationship among human beings and the earth system as a whole. This parallels the focus of the forthcoming international climate change negotiations on the imposed value (i.e. the price we place on the planet’s resources; the financing of reduction of carbon emissions by use of carbon trading etc). To include recognition of the intrinsic value of the planet, as a living being with whom we have an interdependent relationship, would be an acknowledgment of Earth as a Whole, a concept Indigenous communities understand well.

Values: imposed v's intrinsic
It is the difference between treating the planet as a commodity and taking responsibility. Both start with very different paradigms. The former, from a position of viewing the planet as an inert being, from which we can take without consequence. The latter, a position of understanding the planet as a living being, where we are all interconnected and interdependent. The outcomes of such divergent views are dramatic - and we can see them being played out in the international climate change arena today.
It is not only the 350+ million indigenous peoples of the world and by a similar number of Buddhists who adhere by the intrinsic values of the planet: "1,360 experts from 95 countries that participated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment ...propose that when analyzing and defining the actions that influence ecosystems it is necessary to consider not only welfare of human beings, but also the intrinsic values of the species and ecosystems."

Mr Solon’s proposal, supported by the 22 nations, for “a possible declaration of ethical principles and values to a life in harmony with Mother Earth” signals a growing momentum for recognition of what the Bolivian indigenous peoples term ‘buen vivir’ or ‘living well’ and in harmony with nature - a vision shared by many others throughout the world. The new paradigm is starting to take shape.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mother Earth rights and rights of all beings in Copenhagen Treaty

One year on from presenting planetary rights to the United Nations, Mother Earth rights and rights of all beings have been included in the forthcoming Copenhagen Treaty currently being drafted for the international climate change negotiations to be held in Copenhagen in December.

Paragraph 13 of the Non-Paper No 52 (of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Co-operative Action under the Convention, to give it it's full title) currently states:

"Noting that a shared vision for long-term cooperative action should take account not only of the rights of human beings, but also of the rights of Mother Earth and all its natural beings as the adverse effects of climate change also have a range of direct and indirect implications for the full and effective enjoyment of human rights - including the right to sustainable development, self determination, statehood, life, the right of people not to be deprived of their own means of subsistence, the right to water and the right to live well - and are increasingly posing a risk to security and the survival, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states."

As of yet, the inherent rights of the wider earth community have not been included. The rights listed are are specifically human-centered. Most are not rights identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the exception being right to life), nor are they enshrined in national or international legislation. The proposed list does not take into account of the wider inherent rights that apply equally to all beings (including humans).

The inherent rights and freedoms that could be included here are:

1. the right not to be polluted;
2. the right to restorative justice; and

3. the freedom of a clean and healthy environment.

The implications of such wording for the future protection of biodiversity and restoration of large degraded eco-systems is of course enormous.

The right not to be polluted
By definition, pollution is the introduction of contaminants - be they synthetic or an excess of natural - into the environment that cause instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to physical systems and living organisms. Thus, the excess of greenhouse gases can be termed a pollutant. Such legislation is necessary to stop the continuance of large scale creation of GHG’s that are damaging to people and planet. Until we actually stop the pollution at source, no amount of offsetting, carbon crediting or carbon capture and storage will solve the problem.

On 17.04.09 the US Environmental Protection Agency ruled that excess greenhouse gas emissions are to be now termed as _"pollutants, which are a danger to public health"._ Greenhouse gases are also a danger to all beings health, as is cogently demonstrated by the loss of numerous species (the polar bear being the most obvious example). Likewise, Europe is now considering implementing a similar directive.
The right to restorative justice
Large scale restoration of degraded eco-systems (wetlands, forests, deserts etc) provides tangible, effective and true remedy on various fronts: the use of physical interventions to change biodiversity and biomass results in raised water tables, perennial agro-forestry practices, soil stability, natural fertility, hydrological regulation and the creation of natural carbon sinks. Correspondingly, such activities dramatically reduce biodiversity loss, fresh water stress, desertification, loss of soil fertility, poverty, disparity, population growth, conflict and climate change.

In China, the principle of restorative justice was applied with enormous success to the restoration of the Loess Plateau (referred to as the Loess Plateau principles) – 35,000 square kilometers of previously desert land (roughly the size of France) was restored to green oasis within 8 years (see: All that was learned from this project that had positive benefit has now become national policy, and all behaviours that were recognised to have negative input were banned.
The freedom of a clean and healthy environment
is the culmination of these two rights being applied. When both pollution and restoration are addressed, a clean and healthy environment for all beings is assured.

By including wider rights, the drafting of the Copenhagen Treaty would be a vitally important first step to integrating the principle of the interconnectedness of all life.

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Einstein

Pictures: Loess Plateau before and after restoration