On the rights of Mother Earth
11 / 2011
The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth took place in April 2010 in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba after the 15th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP15) climate meetings in Copenhagen during December 2009. The event was attended by around 30,000 people from over 100 countries and issued the The Peoples Agreement, an extract of which is reproduced below.
Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger. If global warming increases by more than two degrees Celsius, a situation that the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ could lead to, there is a 50 per cent probability that the damages caused to our Mother Earth will be completely irreversible. Between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of species would be in danger of disappearing. Large extensions of forest would be affected, droughts and floods would affect different regions of the planet, deserts would expand, and the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas would worsen.
Many island states would disappear, and Africa would suffer an increase in temperature of more than three degrees Celsius. Likewise, the production of food would diminish in the world, causing catastrophic impact on the survival of inhabitants from vast regions in the planet, and the number of people in the world suffering from hunger would increase dramatically, a figure that already exceeds 1.02 billion people.
The corporations and governments of the so-called ‘developed’ countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.
We confront the terminal crisis of a civilizing model that is patriarchal and based on the submission and destruction of human beings and nature that accelerated since the industrial revolution.
The capitalist system has imposed on us a logic of competition, progress and limitless growth. This regime of production and consumption seeks profit without limits, separating human beings from nature and imposing a logic of domination upon nature, transforming everything into commodities: water, earth, the human genome, ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, the rights of peoples, and life itself.
Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are.
Capitalism requires a powerful military industry for its processes of accumulation and imposition of control over territories and natural resources, suppressing the resistance of the peoples. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet.
Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings.
We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of ‘Living Well’, recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.
To face climate change, we must recognize Mother Earth as the source of life and forge a new system based on the principles of:
Harmony and balance among all and with all things;
Complementarity, solidarity, and equality;
Collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all;
People in harmony with nature;
Recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own;
Elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism;
Peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth;
The model we support is not a model of limitless and destructive development. All countries need to produce the goods and services necessary to satisfy the fundamental needs of their populations, but by no means can they continue to follow the path of development that has led the richest countries to have an ecological footprint five times bigger than what the planet is able to support.
Currently, the regenerative capacity of the planet has been already exceeded by more than 30 per cent. If this pace of over-exploitation of our Mother Earth continues, we will need two planets by the year 2030. In an interdependent system in which human beings are only one component, it is not possible to recognize rights only to the human part without provoking an imbalance in the system as a whole.
To guarantee human rights and to restore harmony with nature, it is necessary to effectively recognize and apply the rights of Mother Earth. For this purpose, we propose the project for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, in which it’s recorded that:
The right to live and to exist;
The right to be respected;
The right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue it’s vital cycles and processes free of human alteration;
The right to maintain their identity and integrity as differentiated beings, self-regulated and interrelated;
The right to water as the source of life;
The right to clean air;
The right to comprehensive health;
The right to be free of contamination and pollution, free of toxic and radioactive waste;
The right to be free of alterations or modifications of it’s genetic structure in a manner that threatens it’s integrity or vital and healthy functioning;
The right to prompt and full restoration for violations to the rights acknowledged in this Declaration caused by human activities.
The ‘shared vision’ seeks to stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gases to make effective the Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which states that ‘the stabilization of greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic inferences for the climate system.’
Our vision is based on the principle of historical common but differentiated responsibilities, to demand the developed countries to commit with quantifiable goals of emission reduction that will allow to return the concentrations of greenhouse gases to 300 ppm, therefore the increase in the average world temperature to a maximum of one degree Celsius.
Emphasizing the need for urgent action to achieve this vision, and with the support of peoples, movements and countries, developed countries should commit to ambitious targets for reducing emissions that permit the achievement of short-term objectives, while maintaining our vision
in favour of balance in the Earth’s climate system, in agreement with the ultimate objective of the Convention.
The ‘shared vision for long-term cooperative action’ in climate change negotiations should not be reduced to defining the limit on temperature increases and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but must also incorporate in a balanced and integral manner measures regarding capacity building, production and consumption patterns, and other essential factors such as the acknowledging of the Rights of Mother Earth to establish harmony with nature.
Developed countries, as the main cause of climate change, in assuming their historical responsibility, must recognize and honour their climate debt in all of its dimensions as the basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution to climate change. In this context, we demand that developed countries:
Restore to developing countries the atmospheric space that is occupied by their greenhouse gas emissions. This implies the decolonization of the atmosphere through the reduction and absorption of their emissions;
Assume the costs and technology transfer needs of developing countries arising from the loss of development opportunities due to living in a restricted atmospheric space;
Assume responsibility for the hundreds of millions of people that will be forced to migrate due to the climate change caused by these countries, and eliminate their restrictive immigration policies, offering migrants a decent life with full human rights guarantees in their countries;
Assume adaptation debt related to the impacts of climate change on developing countries by providing the means to prevent, minimize, and deal with damages arising from their excessive emissions;
Honour these debts as part of a broader debt to Mother Earth by adopting and implementing the United Nations Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.
The focus must not be only on financial compensation, but also on restorative justice, understood as the restitution of integrity to our Mother Earth and all its beings.
This is an extract from ‘The Peoples Agreement’ taken from the publication ‘From Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cochabamba, Cancun and to Durban: will Africa be incinerated’. The document is a tool for popular education and mobilisation. It contains four documents relevant to the climate change negotiations: 1. The Peoples Agreement, 2. Copenhagen Accord, 3. Kyoto Protocol, 4. Cancun Agreement.
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