Mother Earth has Rights

From the July-August 2011 PNL #806

by Kathy Kern

In 2003, I saw a documentary, The Corporation, that explored the concept of “personhood” granted to US corporations by the Supreme Court through the 14th amendment. That decision essentially meant that corporations had the same legal rights as actual human beings. The filmmakers asked the question, “So let’s say corporations ARE actually human beings; what would happen if they had to be as accountable as human beings are for their behavior?” The film interviewed a psychology professor and consultant to the FBI, who examined corporate behaviors such as callous disregard for people’s feelings; the incapacity to maintain human relationships; reckless disregard for the safety of others; deceitfulness; the inability to experience guilt and the failure to conform to social norms; and the inability to respect the law. The psychologist concluded that if large corporations were actually people, they would be diagnosed as psychopaths.

Bolivia is preparing to pass a bill that would confer personhood on another non-human entity, Mother Earth [Editor’s note: the bill passed in April]. Arising from the April 2010 Global People’s Conference on Climate Change  held in Bolivia, the bill states, “Mother Earth is a living dynamic system made up of the undivided community of all living beings, who are all interconnected, interdependent and complementary, sharing a common destiny.” If passed, the law would give Nature the legal rights to life, regeneration, biodiversity, clean air, and restoration; and it would mean that public policy would focus on living in harmony with nature, rather than on consumption and the production of goods.

Practically, implementation of the law would begin with setting up a new Ministry of Mother Earth. That ministry would oversee the transition from non-renewable to renewable forms of energy, develop economic indicators assessing the ecological impact of economic activity, and carry out ecological audits of private and state companies. It would regulate greenhouse gas emissions, invest resources in energy efficiency, ecological practices and organic agriculture, and require that corporations and individuals be held accountable for environmental contamination.

Raul Prada, an advisor to Bolivian social movements notes that this change in economic thinking “… will need policies developed in participation with movements, particularly in areas such as food sovereignty… redirection of investment and policies towards different ecological models of development...[and] the cooperation of the international community to develop regional economies that complement each other.”

I hope that those of us in the First World manage to get behind this movement in Bolivia. The choice is between supporting Creation and supporting Psychopaths. 

Kathy Kern  is an activist/author for Christian Peacemaker Teams.