I wonder what St. Francis would say about this. Bolivia, the poorest nation in South America, is leading the way toward recognizing the inherent dignity of creation in a legal way, seeking to grant equal rights enjoyed by humans to nature. In an age when the United States Supreme Court can grant equal rights to corporations so they can spend unrestricted amounts of money on political campaigns, among other activities, it seems that granting creation equal rights with humans — recalling the creation is also living, whereas corporations are a human construct — The Mother Earth Law, as it is being called, makes much more sense.

The British newspaper, The Guardian, has been following the developing story.

The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservationand social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

There are political and industrial hurdles that still need to be overcome, but it seems that the Bolivian legislative body will have little resistance in passing the Law. What is moving to me is, even though the Law is grounded in the indigenous religious beliefs of the Bolivian people, the wording to the Law is beautifully reflective of St. Francis’s Canticle of the Creatures and the way he describes the earth.

The Bolivian Law reads:

“She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

St. Francis’s description of Mother Earth in The Canticle Reads:

“Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

I hope that this may be the beginning of a global movement to likewise recognize the sacredness of creation and our need to identify our kinship with the earth, not just as those who dominate or acts as stewards or landlords, but as human beings created from the earth by God. We are ha-adama, as the Creation account in Genesis tells us, literally “from the earth.” I also hope that what is set out in this Law comes to fruition and that the pillaging that has occurred in the lands. mines and forests of Bolivia may be brought under closer scrutiny and that all creation, nature and humanity alike, may finally be treated with the dignity deserved.

Photo: Stock

7 Comments

  1. WHITE HARP

    I strummed the white harp of the world,
    whose ice-wires arc the cold ages,
    I rippled meridians and hurled
    the cages that mind-warp wilderness,

    And now we archive your avalanche
    that jolts me alive in rages
    for blistering beauty—to stanch
    what my savages contrive to possess.

    copyright ronnie j smith

  2. I think this is absolutely wonderful, and a deep challenge to all of us who live in places with highly exploitive relationships to creation, but I have to admit that I have a certain concern with the use of the language of “rights” for non-human creation. Given the debate in theological and philosophical ethics as to whether human rights actually “exist” at all, or are simply problematic fictions that demonstrate the incoherence of contemporary liberalism compared to classical or Christian traditions — I’m thinking here of MacIntyre and Hauerwas, MacIntyre famously claiming in After Virtue that “there are no such thing as rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and unicorns” — is “rights” language the best approach to non-human creation / ecology (to be clear, I’m wondering whether we should use different language to accomplish this result, not questioning whether such strong protective measures should exist. I firmly believe they should)? Or is my concern just an indication of my remaining and problematic anthropocentrism?

  3. Wow, this is just mind-blowing! Can we get back to reality now? Rights of man, as given by the Lord, and the rights of a deposit of oil or iron, or shale, or a forest, or even animals is not even close. If you are a follower of Christ, you will know that dominion over the earth and all of its “blessings” was given to us by God. As St. Francis was certainly an advocate for nature and wanted responsible stewardship, he also was realistic in his view that men have a special relationship with God (anyone recall “created in his own image”). I’m sorry, but Christ came to this earth to save mankind, not the animals and the trees. Back to reality guys, we are waiting🙂

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