The rights of nature and the Earth

                                                   Leonardo Boff

With the intrusion of Cvid-19 and the increase of extreme events, nature and the Earth have entered the radar of human concerns. The fact is that we find ourselves within the sixth mass extinction, aggravated by the anthropocene and necrocene of the last decades. Therefore, another type of relationship with nature and with the Earth, our Common Home, is required to maintain its biocapacity.

This will only happen if we redo the natural contract with the Earth and if we consider that all living beings, carriers of the same basic genetic code (the same 20 amino acids and 4 phosphate bases), form the great community of life as understood in the Earth Charter. The Earth Charter states categorically that all of them have intrinsic value, regardless of the use that we make of them, and therefore deserve respect and are subjects of dignity and rights. Repeatedly in his ecological encyclical Laudato Si’ Pope Francis emphasizes that “every creature has a value and a meaning of its own” (n.76).

Every contract is made on the basis of reciprocity, exchange, and recognition of the rights of each party. From the Earth we receive everything: life and the means to live. In return we have a duty of gratitude, of retribution and of care. But we, long ago, broke this natural contract. We have subjected Mother Earth to a veritable war, in our eagerness to snatch from her, without any further consideration, all that we found useful for our use and enjoyment.

If we do not reestablish this bond of lasting mutuality, she may eventually no longer want us on her earthly face. This is why sustainability here is essential, as it is the basis of a real redo of the natural contract.

The President of Bolivia, the indigenous Aymara Evo Morales Ayma in his speech at the UN on April 22, 2009, when discussing whether April 22 would continue to be Earth Day or whether it should be Mother Earth Day he listed some of these rights of Pacha Mama:

“Right to life and to exist;

Right to be respected;

Right to regeneration of her bio-capacity and continuation of her life cycles and processes free from human alteration;

Right to maintain its identity and integrity as differentiated, self-regulated and interrelated beings;

 Right to water as a source of life

 Right to clean air

 Right to integral health;

 Right to be free from contamination, pollution, and toxic or radioactive waste;

Right not to be genetically altered and modified in its structure, thus threatening its vital and healthy integrity or functioning;

 Right to full and prompt restoration after violations of the rights recognized in this Declaration and caused by human activities.”

His proposal was unanimously welcomed by the Assembly of Peoples. On April 19-23, 2009, the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights was held in Cochabamba, convened by Evo Morales. From there came the Charter of the Rights of Mother Earth with the items affirmed by him in the UN in which I myself was present with the charge of theoretically founding these rights in the Assembly.

This vision makes it possible to renew the natural contract with the Earth that, articulated with the social contract among citizens, will end up reinforcing the planetary sustainability and guaranteeing the rights of nature and the Earth.

Today we know, through the new cosmology, that all beings possess not only mass and energy. They are also carriers of information that results from the permanent interactions among themselves and that grows until it erupts as self-consciousness.

This fact implies levels of subjectivity and history. Here lies the scientific basis that justifies the extension of legal personality to the living Earth.

Since the 1970s as a hypothesis, and since 2002 as scientific theory, the view that the Earth is a living Super Entity that behaves systemically, articulating the biogeochemical factors in such a way that it always remains alive and a producer of life, has been accepted.

By claiming to be a living Super Entity, it is entitled to the dignity and respect that all life deserves. The clear consciousness that everything that exists deserves to exist and everything that lives deserves to live, grows more and more. And it is up to us to welcome its existence, defend it, and guarantee it the conditions to continue evolving.

Furthermore, no one doubts that the human being is the subject of inalienable rights and that he or she enjoys subjectivity and history. Now, this human being, as many cosmologists and anthropologists maintain, is the Earth itself, which at an advanced moment of its complexity began to feel, think, love and care. These human rights, because we are Earth, must also be attributed to the Earth.

also be attributed to the Earth. The moderns called her Gaia, the ancients Great Mother, and the Andeans Pacha Mama.

This subjectivity has history, that is, it is inside the immense cosmogenic process making the Earth alive through human beings see itself, contemplate the universe, and represent the most advanced stage of the cosmos so far known.

Michel Serres, a French philosopher of sciences, said with propriety: “The Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789, of the French revolution, had the merit of saying ‘all men have rights’ but the defect of thinking ‘only men have rights.

It took a lot of struggle to fully recognize the rights of women, indigenous people, black people, just as it is now taking a lot of effort to recognize the rights of nature and of Mother Earth, made up of all ecosystems.

Because of their mutual intertwining, Earth and Humanity have the same destiny. It is up to us, its conscious portion and its caretakers, to make this common destiny succeed on the condition that we respect the dignity and the rights of Mother Earth.

Leonardo Boff, wrote: Dignity of the Earth: ecology, cry of the Earth-cry of the poor Vozes 1999/2015/ Orbis Books 2000/2010.


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