Ecuador Passes New Constitution: Voters Approve Rights of Nature

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 7:45 am by dpacheco

The voters of Ecuador overwhelmingly approved a new Constitution that grants more power to its leftist president, Rafael Correa. Of the 444 articles, including a clause allowing same-sex civil unions, one of the most notable clauses affirms the inalienable rights of nature, explicitly stating that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.”

According to the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog, “[t]he language in these provisions was written by Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly with input from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based group providing legal assistance to governments and community groups trying to mesh human affairs and the environment.”

Here’s the Times’ Andrew C. Revkin:

The group says it has helped more than a dozen communities in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia draft and pass laws “that change the status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.”

My guess is that Edward O. Wilson would love to see this language adopted everywhere.

Simon Romero, my colleague covering the news, told me in e-mail Sunday night that this particular provision “has been derided within Ecuador” given the history of pollution from state-run and private oil companies in the Amazon and the government’s need to keep oil flowing to sustain the economy.

So . . . revolutionary? A step in the right direction? Or just lip service? Time will tell.

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