Ecuador – The rights of Pachamama

In September 2008, during our visit, Ecuador has passed a new constitution (with more than 64%yes vote), that has some very unique elements in it. It is the first constitution, that gives certain inalienable rigths to Mother Nature, to Pachamama. (Pachamama is a goddess revered by people in the Andes – the name is usually translated as Mother Earth, but more literally it would be “Mother Universe”.)  In the new constitution’s Rights of Nature chapter there are five provisions, that state that an ecosystem has the “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution,” and “every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of [these] rights.”

paintings - Lago Agrio, the wall of an oil-company building

paintings - Lago Agrio, the wall of an oil-company building


“The new constitution, for instance, will allow individuals to file lawsuits on behalf of the environment. Previously, citizens had to prove that environmental pollution had caused them harm in order to file a lawsuit. That is no longer necessary under Ecuadorian law.” (Catherine Finn)

In my opinion, giving constitutional right to nature is an incredibly huge thing. So far, even the environmentalists fell into the trap of trying to give justifications for “saving nature”. The use of such phrases as “natural resourses”, implies that we still look at nature as a resourse, as a stockpile of useful things. There are also lots of scientific arguments, why we should take care of the tropical forests, for example: they help regulate the weather and water cycles, store large amounts of carbon, so they can help fighting global warming, provide home for one of the most diverse ecosystem on Earth…and who knows, maybe even hide the cure for cancer or other deadly diseases. So, it is in our best interest that we protect them. And somehow, all these arguments are false, because they still look at everything in nature as objects, that only have a right for survival if they are in any way useful for humanity – instead of saying that they have just as much right to be here as we do, regardless of their usefulness, size, beauty or any other qualification.

the forest at Yanayacu

the forest at Yanayacu

Of course, it would be silly to think that from now on there won’t be any “crimes” commited against nature in Ecuador. It will be interesting to see how they can put all this into action, how they can translate the words of the Constitution to real life…But it is a start. And this small country is leading the way.



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