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Not for Sale: Why We Can't Save the Planet By Putting a Price on Nature

The people of the world must take concerted action to initiate a new framework that begins with the recognition that nature is sacred and not for sale.

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With some indigenous communities it is difficult and sometimes impossible to reconcile traditional spiritual beliefs with the participation in climate mitigation that commodifies the sacredness of air (carbon), trees, biodiversity, soils and life. Climate change mitigation and adaptation must be based on different mindsets with full respect for nature - on the rights of Mother Earth - and not solely on market-based mechanisms.

Indigenous peoples can contribute substantially to sustainable development within a holistic framework. With the knowledge that development that violates human rights is by definition unsustainable, Rio+20 must affirm a human rights-based approach to sustainable development. In particular, by affirming that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must serve as a key framework underpinning all international, national and sub-national policies and programs on sustainable development with regard to Indigenous peoples.

Full recognition of land tenure of our place-based Indigenous communities is the most effective measure for protecting the rich biological and cultural diversity of the world. Strengthening international, national and sub-national frameworks for collectively demarcating and titling Indigenous peoples' territories and land has proven to be one of the most effective measures for reducing deforestation, protecting the environment from unsustainable mineral extraction, conserving and restoring biodiversity, and preserving a better world for future generations.

A body of law must be developed that recognizes the inherent rights of the ecosystems of Mother Earth and enables indigenous and non-indigenous communities to act as protectors of those ecosystems. Colonial Western law limits nature as mere property or "resources" to be exploited. For the sake of the future generation of humanity and for the world as we know her to survive, there must be a new paradigm enforced by law that redefines humanity's governance relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth and the natural world. This includes the integration of the human-rights based approach, ecosystem approach and culturally-sensitive and knowledge-based approaches. The world must forge a new economic system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. We can only achieve balance with nature if there is equity among us.

At Rio+20, governments of the world and civil society must reject any green economy agenda that promotes the commodification and financialization of nature. The people of the world must take concerted action to initiate a new framework that begins with recognition that nature is sacred and not for sale, and that the ecosystems of our Mother Earth have jurisprudence for conservation and protection.

There is a need for this new paradigm in this world. This paradigm requires a change in the human relationship with the natural world from one of exploitation to one that recognizes its relationship to the sacredness of our true mother - Mother Earth.

Tom B.K. Goldtooth is the Executive Director of The Indigenous Environmental Network, a network of indigenous communities worldwide. He is a leader of environmental and climate justice issues and the rights of Indigenous peoples. He is co-producer of an award-winning documentary Drumbeat For Mother Earth, which addresses the effects of bio-accumulative chemicals on indigenous communities.

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