Yuspagara, Act of the Rights of Mother Earth!

Today I’m grateful for the recently passed Act of the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia (full translated text re-printed below).  It might be small and landlocked, but this country is impressive in so many ways.

First and foremost, the source of my gratitude today: Bolivia is the first country to recognize that Mama Gaia deserves some rights!  It’s so old school it’s the new school.  Rock rock on, Bolivia.


Precedent: The law is considered to be the first instance of environmental law that gives legal personhood to the natural system, and may also allow for citizens to sue individuals and groups as part of “Mother Earth” in response to real and alleged infringements of its integrity.

The law defines Mother Earth as “…the dynamic living system formed by the indivisible community of all life systems and living beings whom are interrelated, interdependent, and complementary, which share a common destiny; adding that “Mother Earth is considered sacred in the worldview of Indigenous peoples and nations. In this approach human beings and their communities are considered a part of mother earth, by being integrated in “Life systems” defined as complex and dynamic communities of plants, animals, micro-organisms and other beings in their environment, in which human communities and the rest of nature interact as a functional unit, under the influence of climatic, physiographic and geologic factors, as well as the productive practices and cultural diversity of Bolivians of both genders, and the cosmovisions of Indigenous nations and peoples, intercultural communities and the Afro-Bolivians.

This definition can be seen as a more inclusive definition of ecosystems because it explicitly includes the social, cultural and economic dimensions of human communities.The law also establishes the juridical character of Mother Earth as “collective subject of public interest”, to ensure the exercise and protection of her rights. By giving Mother Earth a legal personality, it can, through its representatives (humans), bring an action to defend its rights.

Additionally, to say that Mother Earth is of public interest represents a major shift from a anthropocentric perspective to a more Earth community based perspective.

More Fun Bolivia Facts

Bolivia is illiteracy free (official status recognized by UNESCO!), recognizes 37 official languages and produces over 4000 kinds of potatoes.  Say what??  The Irish tater-eater in me is actually céilí dancing as I type!

With 199 ecosystems (Bolivia is a part of the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries which cooperate to preserve and sustain the use of biological diversity), it make sense that Bolivia would pass such a bill protecting its natural gems.  Indeed, the vast majority of Bolivia’s exports are straight outta mama earth’s basket.

Bolivia’s Exports as of 2009

Here is a full translation as printed by  http://www.scribd.com/doc/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia

Article 1. (SCOPE). This Act is intended to recognize the rights of Mother Earth, and the obligations and duties of the
Multinational State and society to ensure respect for these rights.
Article 2. (PRINCIPLES). The binding principles that govern this law are:
1. Harmony. Human activities, within the framework of plurality and diversity, should achieve a dynamic balance with the
cycles and processes inherent in Mother Earth.
2. Collective good. The interests of society, within the framework of the rights of Mother Earth, prevail in all human activities
and any acquired right.
3. Guarantee of the regeneration of Mother Earth. The state, at its various levels, and society, in harmony with the common
interest, must ensure the necessary conditions in order that the diverse living systems of Mother Earth may absorb damage, adapt
to shocks, and regenerate without significantly altering their structural and functional characteristics, recognizing that living
systems are limited in their ability to regenerate, and that humans are limited in their ability to undo their actions.
4. Respect and defend the rights of Mother Earth. The State and any individual or collective person must respect, protect and
guarantee the rights of Mother Earth for the well-being of current and future generations.
5. No commercialism. Neither living systems nor processes that sustain them may be commercialized, nor serve anyone’s private
6. Multiculturalism. The exercise of the rights of Mother Earth requires the recognition, recovery, respect, protection, and
dialogue of the diversity of feelings, values, knowledge, skills, practices, skills, transcendence, transformation, science,
technology and standards, of all the cultures of the world who seek to live in harmony with nature.
Article 3. (Mother Earth). Mother Earth is a dynamic living system comprising an indivisible community of all living systems
and living organisms, interrelated, interdependent and complementary, which share a common destiny.
Mother Earth is considered sacred, from the worldviews of nations and peasant indigenous peoples.
Article 4. (LIVING SYSTEMS). Living systems are complex and dynamic communities of plants, animals, microorganisms
and other beings and their environment, where human communities and the rest of nature interact as a functional unit under the
influence of climatic, physiographic, and geological factors, as well as production practices, Bolivian cultural diversity, and the
worldviews of nations, original indigenous peoples, and intercultural and Afro-Bolivian communities.
Article 5. (LEGAL STATUS OF MOTHER EARTH). For the purpose of protecting and enforcing its rights, Mother Earth
takes on the character of collective public interest. Mother Earth and all its components, including human communities, are
entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in
this Law. The exercise of the rights of Mother Earth will take into account the specificities and particularities of its various
components. The rights under this Act shall not limit the existence of other rights of Mother Earth.
Article 6. (EXERCISE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE MOTHER EARTH). All Bolivians, to join the community of beings
comprising Mother Earth, exercise rights under this Act, in a way that is consistent with their individual and collective rights.
The exercise of individual rights is limited by the exercise of collective rights in the living systems of Mother Earth. Any conflict
of rights must be resolved in ways that do not irreversibly affect the functionality of living systems.
I. Mother Earth has the following rights:
1. To life: The right to maintain the integrity of living systems and natural processes that sustain them, and capacities and
conditions for regeneration.
2. To the diversity of life: It is the right to preservation of differentiation and variety of beings that make up Mother Earth,
without being genetically altered or structurally modified in an artificial way, so that their existence, functioning or future potential
would be threatened.
3. To water: The right to preserve the functionality of the water cycle, its existence in the quantity and quality needed to sustain
living systems, and its protection from pollution for the reproduction of the life of Mother Earth and all its components.
4. To clean air: The right to preserve the quality and composition of air for sustaining living systems and its protection from
pollution, for the reproduction of the life of Mother Earth and all its components.
5. To equilibrium: The right to maintenance or restoration of the interrelationship, interdependence, complementarity and
functionality of the components of Mother Earth in a balanced way for the continuation of their cycles and reproduction of their
vital processes.
6. To restoration: The right to timely and effective restoration of living systems affected by human activities directly or
7. To pollution-free living: The right to the preservation of any of Mother Earth’s components from contamination, as well as
toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities.
Article 8. (OBLIGATIONS OF THE PLURINATIONAL STATE). The Plurinational State, at all levels and geographical
areas and across all authorities and institutions, has the following duties:
1. Develop public policies and systematic actions of prevention, early warning, protection, and precaution in order to prevent
human activities causing the extinction of living populations, the alteration of the cycles and processes that ensure life, or the
destruction of livelihoods, including cultural systems that are part of Mother Earth.
2. Develop balanced forms of production and patterns of consumption to satisfy the needs of the Bolivian people to live well,
while safeguarding the regenerative capacity and integrity of the cycles, processes and vital balance of Mother Earth.
3. Develop policies to protect Mother Earth from the multinational and international scope of the exploitation of its components,
from the commodification of living systems or the processes that support them, and from the structural causes and effects of
global climate change.
4. Develop policies to ensure long-term energy sovereignty, increased efficiency and the gradual incorporation of clean and
renewable alternative sources into the energy matrix.
5. Demand international recognition of environmental debt through the financing and transfer of clean technologies that are
effective and compatible with the rights of Mother Earth, among other mechanisms.
6. Promote peace and the elimination of all nuclear, chemical, and biological arms and weapons of mass destruction.
7. Promote the growth and recognition of rights of Mother Earth in multilateral, regional and bilateral international relations.
Article 9. (DUTIES OF THE PEOPLE) The duties of natural persons and public or private legal entities:
1. Uphold and respect the rights of Mother Earth.
2. Promote harmony with Mother Earth in all areas of its relationship with other human communities and the rest of nature in
living systems.
3. Participate actively, individually or collectively, in generating proposals designed to respect and defend the rights of Mother
4. Assume production practices and consumer behavior in harmony with the rights of Mother Earth.
5. Ensure the sustainable use of Mother Earth’s components.
6. Report any act that violates the rights of Mother Earth, living systems, and/or their components.
7. Attend the convention of competent authorities or organized civil society to implement measures aimed at preserving and/or
protecting Mother Earth.
Article 10. (DEFENSE OF MOTHER EARTH). Establishing the Office of Mother Earth, whose mission is to ensure the
validity, promotion, distribution and compliance of the rights of Mother Earth established in this Act. A special law will establish
its structure, function, and attributes.
Refer to the Executive Branch for constitutional ends.
It is given in the Assembly Hall of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, on the seventh day of the month of December two
thousand and ten.
Sen. René Oscar Martínez Callahuanca
Dip. Héctor Enrique Arce Zaconeta


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