Bolivia is preparing to pass a new law that could lead to citizens challenging environmental destruction in court.
A Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (The Law of Mother Earth) would grant nature the same rights as humans, according to The Guardian.
The country will establish 11 new rights for nature, including: the right to exist, the right to continue natural cycles, the right to clean water and air, the right to be free of pollution, and the right not to have cellular structures altered or genetically modified.
The law will also give nature the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”
“It makes world history,” Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro García Linera said. “Earth is the mother of all.”
“It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”
The law enjoys the support of Bolivian President Evo Morales and his Move Toward Socialism party. Not coincidentally, he is Latin America’s first indigenous president.
As a part of the indigenous Andean philosophy, the earth deity known as the Pachamama is at the center of all life.
Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca has said that respect for Pachamama is important in the prevention of climate change, which threatens to disrupt Bolivia’s way of life.
“Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals,” he said. “We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values.”
As a developing nation, Bolivia has also suffered damage from the mining of tin, silver, gold and other raw materials.
“Existing laws are not strong enough,” Undarico Pinto, leader of Bolivia’s biggest social movement, Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, told The Guardian. “It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels.”
The law is not expected to change things overnight. Ecuador also granted some rights to nature as a part of a change to their constitution in 2008, but no new laws have been created as a result.