Rights of Nature: Planting Seeds of Real Change


Global Exchange released a new report for the Rio+20 Earth Summit (June 20th-22nd, 2012), Rights of Nature Planting Seeds of Real Change. 

This report takes a look at the flaws behind the Green Economy agenda and explores in depth the ways in which Rights of Nature can be applied as a legal framework to help solve many of the problems currently plaguing the environment.

The report includes articles from leading activists such as former UN Ambassador to Bolivia Pablo Solon, Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, Alberto Acosta, and many more.

Executive Summary
By Shannon Biggs

From the extraction of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to the deforestation of the Amazon, to the impacts of climate change, the results of the market-based economic system are visible from space — transforming our communities and ecosystems into sacrifice zones for corporate profit. The reckless drive for unlimited growth on a finite planet is itself a legalized Ponzi scheme perpetrated on communities around the globe, future generations and Earth’s biosphere.
Rather than shifting course, the so-called Green Economy strategy unveiled at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development drives nature further into the global marketplace by defining an economic value on what the Earth “does” for humans, detachedly called “ecosystem services.” Proponents of this scheme of “commoditizing” soil, forests, and fresh water profess that by putting a price on the natural world, it can be ‘saved’.
Entire human societies have come to value “endless more” to the detriment of all, and that value has been codified into law. The destructive impulse of the free market is codified and empowered by le- gal structures that treat nature as human property. Yet the human connection to the rest of our living system is not contained in the calculation of the “flow of value to human societies,” and intensifying the same failed strategies that have driven us to the tipping point will never protect nature.

It is time for new thinking, new direction, and new actions.
Living within the carrying capacity of the planet requires that we adhere to the natural laws governing all life and human wellbeing. The process of deprogramming societies and dispelling the arrogant belief that the earth “belongs” to humans will require fundamentally aligning economic and legal structures to exist within natural systems.
Rights of nature define legal rights for ecosystems “to exist, flourish and regenerate their natural capacities.” These laws challenge the status of nature as solely property and while not stopping development, recognizing legal rights of nature stops the kind of development that interferes with the existence and vitality of ecosystems. As David Korten notes, “A true ecological economics must begin not with the tools and system frame of economics, but rather with the tools and system frame of ecology. This suggests it must develop as a sub-discipline of ecology, not of economics.” In short, a rights-based economy begins with the biosphere.
This report, “Rights of Nature: Planting the Seeds of Change,” directly challenges Rio +20’s Green Economy capitalism and examines the power and possibility and logic of a rights-based framework. Visionary thinkers such as Maude Barlow, Vandana Shiva, Thomas B.K. Goldtooth, Pablo Solon, Cormac Cullinan, Mari Margil and others ask the question: What would it look like to truly take on the root causes of climate change and put forward a system that places humankind in living balance with the carrying capacity of the Earth’s systems? If we are to truly reconnect within the system of creation, we must also reawaken our own humanity and love for Mother Earth and act as if what we do next matters. It does.

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