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Vision: The Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth Is Our Roadmap to a Liveable Future

"It is time for humankind to humbly accept that we have arrived at the precipice of reckless living, exploitation and destruction of Mother Earth."

The following is excerpted from the recently released book, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, produced by the Council of Canadians, Global Exchange and Fundacion Pachamama. This book reveals the path of a movement driving transformation of our human relationship with nature away from domination and towards balance. This book gathers the wisdom of indigenous cultures, scientists, activists small farmers, spiritual leaders and US communities who seek a different path for protecting nature by establishing Nature's Rights in law and culture. In addition to this excerpt, the book includes essays from Vandana Shiva, Desmond Tutu, Thomas Goldtooth, Eduardo Galeano, and many others. Copies of the book may be obtained through Global Exchange.

The prime anchor of the proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is that every element in Nature is interdependent and one cannot ignore the rights of the other without consequences. A grasping of this truth brings clarity to the fact that the Earth herself is finite and limited. It also helps us to grasp that if the resources of the Earth were used sustainably there would be enough to sustain every creature and living being in a continuously renewing manner.

Mahatma Ghandi rightly said that there is enough on Earth to meet everyone's need, but not enough to meet everyone's greed. This saying gets to the root of the matter. The interconnectedness in Nature demands that we deal respectfully with the bounties of Nature as well as with every other person. This is the pathway to sustainability.

The inordinate desire of man to dominate, accumulate and destroy has led to the emergence of many catastrophic events on Earth including climate change, hunger, disease, and a multiplicity of conflicts. The spirit of competition negates every element of solidarity and builds an insatiable taste for natural resources. To sustain this track of plunder, policy makers and their think tanks adopt delusory platforms that insist that humans can always find a fix for everything and therefore do not need to see the limits that exist on the highway of unrestricted exploitation.

The United Nations, in a bid to provide a socio-political environment in which minimum rights can be respected, has proclaimed a number of rights including the important Universal Declaration of Human Rights and more recently the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and now water has been declared a human right. The declaration of water as a human right is a milestone in the life of the august body. However, when the vote on the human right of water was taken, it is instructive to note that 41 countries abstained from raising their flags. These abstentions signalled the unpreparedness of some people to recognize the sanctity of life since water is such a basic element both in our make-up as humans, and a necessary element for the survival of all living beings. An Arab saying states, "The greatest crime to commit in a desert is to find water and to hide it." Anyone who uses water as a tool for subjugation, exploitation and strangulation of others commits a heinous crime against humanity.

After acceding to water as a human right, it is time for the world to take the next necessary step to proclaim the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. This, in a manner of speaking, is the mother of all rights.

The urgency for this Declaration cannot be overstressed. Man's exploitation of Mother Earth has left indelible scars that may never be healed. The actions of man through deforestation and the over-exploitation of water resources, for example, have caused the drying up of water bodies. Man-made climate change further compounds the situation. Massive accidents resulting from extractive industry activities, as well as other acts, show the limit to how man can exert control over the monsters that we create. Genetic engineering of crops, including the patenting of seeds and production of infertile seeds to secure control of the food chain on the altar of profit, hasten biodiversity and erosion. Highly depleted sources of fossil fuels have today led to the creation of false solutions including agro-fuels that are encouraging land grabs across Africa and other regions, raising the spectre of further conflicts in the midst of other crises.