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UPDATE: What is the proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth?

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The newspapers here are now reporting that 18,000 people are expected in Cochabamba for la Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climatico y los Derechos de la Madre Tierra.

We are experiencing that first hand standing in a very long line-up to register for the conference. But the mood is very good and people are patiently waiting.

In December 2009 the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution proposed by Bolivian president Evo Morales to develop a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

More on that resolution can be read in a January 5 campaign blog at http://www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2612.

The work for this declaration will continue this week at this conference.

As explained in the New Internationalist, "The resolution calls on all countries to share their experiences and perspectives on how to create 'harmony with nature'. The consequences could be quite profound, especially in the legal arena. Currently activities that cause environmental damage - including climate change - are legal. Most environmental laws do little more than regulate the rate at which environmental destruction may take place. But with the acceptance of Earth Rights, legal systems could take account of, says, the rights of mountains, rivers, forests and animals."

Hopeful questions abound:

What would this declaration mean for the recognition of water as a human right, given a major first step would be for water to be respected as a right of Mother Earth?

And if this were applied to Canada, would mining companies still be allowed to dump their toxic mine waste in fresh water lakes as Schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act now permits? The declaration says lakes have rights too.

How would this impact on the water use and water pollution perpetrated by tar sands operations?

But yes, there is also, if this initiative did move forward at the United Nations, what could we do to ensure the Harper government didn't block it (as it has done with the recognition of water as a human right), or to get Harper to be a signatory to it (as he has refused to do with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)?

While the fate of this declaration is unknown, the Bolivian government's attempt to move it forward at the UN is certainly preferable to the paucity of bold initiatives and the environmental destruction coming from our own government.

Brent Patterson, Director of Organizing, Council of Canadians


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