Pablo Solon – At the heart of our society is Mother Earth

Pablo Solon, speaking on “Rights of Nature and Climate Politics” at a Harold Wolpe Lecture at the UKZN Centre for Civil Society in conjunction with COP17 on Friday December 2 in Durban South Africa opened with “at the heart of our new society is Mother Earth.”

To an audience of approximately 200 participants, the former Bolivian Ambassador to the UN advocated that it is time to change how we relate with nature and restore harmony with nature. We must respect the integrity of our ecosystems. Capitalism is based on a relationship with humans that is similar to our relationship with nature. Over time we humans have expanded rights of humans from landed men to blacks, minorities, women, children, etc.

The UN says don’t speak about rights because it creates conflict between nature and corporations and those who control economics of the world. It is not only anthropocentric it is “capitalpocentric”. The first dimension of this thinking is that most legal systems preserve private property of the wealthy – corporations and wealthy capitalists who protect private property of 1% of the world.

The second dimension is the concerns of the ecosystems. We need to change how we relate with nature. We treat nature as a slave and do whatever we want with nature. When we ask ‘What does the river think about this project?’, it changes how we relate to nature.”

With respect environmental impact, Solon noted that last year the UN declared the human right to water. That took 60 years to achieve because it will affect what Bechtel and others can charge for drinking water. The next step is the recognition that the river water itself has rights. Water ecosystems have vital cycles we need to respect. We must change the way we think the way we relate to nature. Snow has memory. If you want to know what was happening 500 years ago look to the glaciers.

He went on to add, “We all have indigenous roots. Indigenous peoples respect nature. They ask for permission and forgiveness. We must reclaim and remember what we have lost.”

At COP we are talking about green economy. Environmental services presents a new model , a new consensus on making profit with environmental services. Unfortunately, the basis of this new model is the market. Some say let’s have green economy. The challenge we have is we need to come out of Durban with a clear call that we promote a new economy based on the recognition that Nature has Rights and oppose this market based green economy. Rights of Nature does not solve all problems but Rights of Nature says that a new world is possible.

We must fight the appetite against nature. It is an appetite against science and spirituality. The appetite against children and old people…the last years are very lonely. We must change the system and provide an alternative of new society.

Durban results will be worst than Copenhagen by 4 times. The impact on Africa will be the worst. Nature is suffering ecocide.

The current relation with nature is through the market. You have to buy it. The problem with green economy is that they are saying capitalism has failed because we have not put a price on nature. The logic is that you do not take care of what does not have a price.

We must change the paradigm of how we relate with Mother Earth. It is not a problem of compensation it is of restoration. That is true.

The green economy will include insurance so that if your environmental property is damaged you will be compensated. We need a citizens tribunal for the environment. We have to mobilize.

The planet can exist without humans but we are part of the system. Regarding temperature, scientists are saying that this has not happened in the last 800,000 years. We must preserve the biodiversity of the planet.

Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth is not written for humans … It is written for all life including the mountains, glaciers, everything. Why is it human rights have to be protected and the laws of nature can be ignored? When we speak about rights of Mother Earth we are also talking about human rights. There must be balance. We need a social movement that has a clear vision of both human rights and rights of nature.

The worst thing that could come out of Durban is an agreement with such weak numbers. We need to come out of Durban with a clear proposal of a new alternative. And we must develop more actions. Look at the Occupy Wall Street proposal. Oct 15 Occupy Wall Street made an appeal and so many people responded. It is very significant. When we are fighting for employment we must also fight for Mother Earth.