Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Institutional Standards for Democracy": Really Developing the Bottom Billion Means Ecological Reformation There and in the Other Five Billion As Well

(If only Collier were wearing the Green Phrygian Cap)

I'm glad to see that Paul Collier (video below), author of The Bottom Billion, is getting some media play about his desire to refocus the global development agenda on political institutional development in the 'bottom billion.' From statistical arguments, he argues that economic growth typically only occurs in the bottom 60 countries of the world by GNP when they have the political checks and balances to protect themselves from political corruption like from bribery and much else that derives from outside their countries from the top billion's developmental models for them--that is, if they are lucky enough to avoid the recurring civil wars and other systemic difficulties they experience.

He says popularizing basic forms of globally required institutional standards of democracy as checks and balances is a cost free cultural solution. I would agree.

However, the argument of Toward a Bioregional State is that additional ecological levels of checks and balances are required as well for sustainable development, and they are required worldwide instead of only in the bottom billion. The whole world requires equal redeveloping in green, sustainable lines instead of artificially limiting our discussion to the bottom billion as if they were the exclusive source of their own problems, as Collier tends to argue. I think this is mistaken though quite diplomatic, though diplomatic to a fault because it artificially brackets the debate to leave out some of the 'top billion''s corruptions that interact negatively to create the bottom billion from the outside instead of just the difficulties being from the inside of the bottom billion, as Collier argues.

The bioregional state could provide his idea of globally required "institutional standards for democracy" for political security against open warfare and political economic corruption in post-conflict states of the bottom billion--and for avoiding degradative self-destructive development that comes from unrepresentative politics the world over mostly. Collier argues that this lack of political checks and balances leads to development insecurity in the bottom billion as well, which starts the violence cycle over, gauged from statistical analysis of which particular socioeconomic and political variables are correlated across the bottom billion.

Earth to Collier: it is important to add that unecological development because it is corruption can lead to political insecurity and economic insecurity in the bottom billion as well. I've read his book, though Collier lacks data or even interest it seems on whether there are correlations between the bad environmental repercussions of unecological economic growth versus more ecological growth that in the former might cause difficulties in the future instead of claiming as he does that all kinds of economic growth regardless of their ecological impact are equally going to 'solve' all difficulties--instead of creating other ecological ones as well.

So I think one flaw in Collier is his lack of data on the environmental implications of economic expansion. He fails to really have comparative data about environmental issues and conditions correlated to his traps concept.

Some (ecologically sound) economic expansion is better than others, and I expect that if economic expansion that Collier in the abstract argues removes the conflict trap comes with widened pollution, can even some economic expansion lead to the conflict trap as well? So perhaps Collier should disaggregate 'economic development' into a scale of more degradative economic development versus less/zero degradative development. And then run his correlations once more with social stability and socioeconomic data in these two pairs.

The trick of course is getting the empirical data to prove or qualify this idea, as well as separate out all the different historical case variations that I am sure matter as well.

I would only extend his arguments about corruption environmentally to say that the whole world requires an Ecological Reformation of institutions in various areas to match us to green, ecological concerns that are human concerns instead of being opposed. This demographic of humanistic greens are already the majority concern of the world for the past 18 years at least with some global polls from the early 1990s.

(Perhaps it has been so for longer, though global polls seldom go further back on environmentalism for us to judge. However, from comparative historical analysis in my recent book, I argue that the environmental concern of localities is an "ecological self-interest" that has always been a global political pressure. It is expressed in our political feedback when we experience environmental degradation whether linked to what occurs locally or whether it is from outside and forced upon us because in either sense that degradation is hurting our health, our ecologies, and our economics in local areas in the long term without ever diminishing benefits benefits for these degradative connections. This my recent book is a "green theory of history" that ecological self-interest versus a corrupt, elite-biased state penetration of the local is a political dynamic in world history. The local ecological self-interest is seldom integrated in self-destructive, corrupt, elite-based gatekeeping state politics that prefer ignoring it or repressing it for short-term, degradative, consolidating, state (un)development. As I said, this self-destructive pattern that repeats throughout world history at larger and larger scales. Local areas of ecological self-interest are inequitably integrated into an unsustainable, corrupt, state-elite biased polity which is self-destructive of even the biased elite state formation in the long term as it is based on increasing immiseration tied to ecological destruction. The ecological self-interest is resolutely there in all human history, and it is starting to show through once more with the global environmental concerns being the world's majority concern whether people are left or right or inbetween politically. I've uploaded around 15 pages from the introduction. To view them in order, click 'see 16 customer images' / 'most recently added').

Add the Ecocentric Checks and Balances

So while agreeing with Collier on requirements of more humanocentric checks and balances, all countries can stand to introduce other ecocentric checks and balances as a global standard instead of only the bottom billion requiring greater checks and balances in independent standards for democracy for post-conflict states.

Collier discusses how he sees this change as coming through the top billion or developed world concerns of self-interest. I think this is a noble idea though unfortunately naive because it ignores that the self-interest of the top billion is equally involved currently in keeping the bottom billion from developing because the corruption serves the top billion corrupt elites who get wealthy on artificially low-cost raw materials extraction in the corrupt countries there as well. Moreover, selling weapons and destabalization is a major 'growth industry' of some corrupt sectors of the top billion economies. So instead of the root of the corruption being in the bottom billion, it is the corruption in the top billion for rarely sponsoring sustainable development and only sponsoring situations that keep themselves unchallenged in the top billion and keeps others in the bottom billion out of some sectors of the top billion self-interest.

So expecting as he says major institutions like the collective imperialist U.N. Security Council (currently overseeing and providing troops for a U.S. coup in Haiti!), or like the profit-driven and developed world-biased World Bank and International Monetary Fund to encourage the economic and political independence of poorer areas of the world would go against a corrupt, developed-world interest in keeping the bottom billion under their thumbs: this has been achieved in the past 50 years [1] through intentionally indebting countries with unlikely to be re-payed loans based on faulty development models which is the top billion's plan for the bottom billion, [2] through intentional and very lucrative external destabilization which is the top billion's plan for the bottom billion, and [3] through artificially cheap raw material extraction relationships without environmental standards via sponsoring corruption in the bottom billion a corruption that derives from the top billion. Collier is blind to these dynamics that self-interest is unfortunately the self-interest of many corrupt elites steering the top billion countries of the world for their own personal self-interest.

Of course there are "reformers" as he says in the bottom billion (just as there are "reformers" in the top billion), though he ignores corruptions in the top billion. These top billion corruptions require being solved first perhaps, or perhaps in tandem with removing their developmental clientelism via corruption in bottom billion.

Collier overlooks that it is in the current interest of some the top billion's corrupt elites to continue the clientelism of the bottom billion. I would agree that it is hardly in the interest of all of us, though he blithely ignores that corruption in the top billion--and even corruption within his own home institution the World Bank at one point. Read Hancock's old book Lords of Poverty about the IMF and World Bank as creating poverty and profiting from it economically more than alleviating it; or watch a recent documentary Life and Debt about Jamaica's forced indebtedness to a developmental model that even the World Bank summarized in internal secret documents had made their country worse on all levels--sending them backwards ecologically, economically, and politically while encouraging the removal of their democratic checks and balances entirely to get access to short term loan money.

The Eden Project: Green Economic and Political Development Strategies for the Bottom Billion

Collier's larger statistical correlation based argument states that in immediate post-conflict situations there is the importance of securing several things quickly before civil war restarts: these things are jobs, basic services extension (particularly health care), and specific checks and balances in clean government interacting instead of just 'elections and walk away.' I would add clean green government is required in the bottom billion as well as the top billion and inbetween.

However, it is hardly in the interest of the corrupt elites of the top billion to spronsor unclientelistic expansion of independent economies or jobs. The majority of the money in 'aid' in the U.S.'s Iraqi invasion actually is going to the U.S. economy of mercenaries and their corporations instead of building independent Iraqi capacity in institutions. Embarrassingly I think, even Collier's 'capsule history lesson' of the Marshall Plan which he calls a "mixture of caring and self-interest," was far more self-interest of the U.S. to extend its hegemony over Europe through the Marshall Plan. Soviet state clientelism or U.S. corporate monopoly clientelism backed by global invasion becomes mostly semantics when it comes to their common unsustainability removing local developmental optimal frameworks and options for localized priorities in technology and material integration instead of supply-side biased ideologies of development as always involving larger scales like Collier still clings to securely.

I would have a darker counterhistory for all of Collier's mentions of his slew of "global benevolent institutions" he seems to really feel were invented for their self-proclaimed purposes in the wake of World War II. I would add that national sovereignty, unlike he says, fails to have to be eroded to have the wider markets of globalization that he calls for exclusively. Removing national or local material and technological sovereignty on developmental choice can create more difficulties in undermining globally the ecological self-interest from crafting economic institutions that preserve and maintain local biodiversity upon which any sustainable development or sustainable society will be required to proceed. Collier is a failure here in recognizing this.

So besides solving the corruption of the top billion through additional ecological checks and balances, it is likely going to take an independent alliance of "green missionaries" (similar to the permaculturalist diaspora from Australia and New Zealand that descended upon Cuba to help it go majoritatively organic in the early 1990s) instead of just imports of skilled workers for temporary aid. Skills for living in a particular place sustainably are required, and skills for recognizing how to integrate many classes of human consumptive use in multi-use landscapes instead of degradative mono-crops are required. Collier's people of various skills required to descend on the bottom billion in post-conflict situations can be green workers--perhaps people who know to coordinate a commodity ecology across 87 different specializations in a particular area's economy. A full commodity ecology can be introduced to assure local optimal frameworks of human-environmental-economic relations from the start.

Greening Collier's Argument into "Green Jobs, Non-Toxic Health Care/Services, Clean Green Government"

So Collier's triptych of "jobs, health/services, and clean government" for the post-conflict bottom billion, means that for the bioregional state's version even more checks and balances are required ecologically to keep unsustainable forms of development expanding once more and causing future conflict as well. The extended requirements are "green jobs, non-toxic versions of health care (many free non-toxic solutions have been repressed repressed by political economic monopolies can be easily popularized in the bottom billion), and green clean government."

The bioregional state argues that only green government is clean government because it alone has the additional ecological checks and balances that avoid corrupt, degradative forms of development politics. Otherwise a state and its elites are self-destructive ecologically, health-wise, and politically since it leads to larger corruptions in developmental processes and corruptions in political feedback to ignore or undermine the ecological basis of economics and politics.

Collier's idea is for independent service authorities competing for state-disbursed, and state-chosen aid funds to keep them accountable and honest in the bottom billion's "aid free for all". This is seen as a temporary coaching solution or grafting solution for quickly introducing services in a state without capacities after conflict. These can be supplied by green versions of these services.

Conclusion, or a Green Restarting of Post-Conflict Societies

The bottom billion is a large chance: a chance to start bioregional state global development and commodity ecology from the (green) ground up instead of from the unsustainable corrupt top down, as Collier suggests.

As I indicated above, I feel that Collier's exceptions of top-billion-led independence of the bottom billion economically or ecologically is a dead letter. It is unlikely to occur without solving the ungreen corruptions of the top billion's developmental models and their ungreen political institutional arrangements as well.

The bottom billion does seem to want green developmental solutions, so much that it scares the corrupt crony states (re)implanted by the corrupt U.S. in Rwanda for example. A national Green Party of Rwanda delegation from all districts had their first meeting broken up by U.S. approved clients there.


[This is what you get without the bioregional state's ecological checks and balances to maintain party competition: "On October 2nd, 2009, over 900 delegates from every district in Rwanda came to Kigali for a conference of the new Rwandan Democratic Green Party, formed on August 14, 2009. The meeting was abruptly stopped by the Mayor of Nyarugenge District, as party delegates looked on in disbelief. (Inset) Party leader Frank Habineza."]
"It's hardly surprising that, on October 2nd, 2009, 900 delegates to the new Rwandan Democratic Green Party weren't allowed to meet [for the third time] in Kigali, Rwanda. The Kagame government, which Clinton, Warren, and the Obama/Clinton State Department all point to as the triumph and future of Africa, shut them down, again, for the third time. How much longer will so much of the world accept the U.S. State Department's official lies about the Rwandan police state, U.S. puppet Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Defense Force, the U.S.A.'s African proxy army in D.R. Congo, Sudan, and elsewhere in Africa, as needed? During the previous week, on September 29, 2009, former President Bill Clinton presented Rwandan President Paul Kagame with a Global Citizenship Award. On Friday, Reverend Rick Warren hung his International Medal of Peace around Kagame's neck at a "Saddleback Civil Forum on Peace and Reconciliation," at Warren's evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. ([On how useless that mafia-dubbing award is] Warren hung his first "International Medal of Peace" around George Bush's neck last year.)"
Therefore, to work toward greening the world, means working on the corruptions and collusion of the top and bottom billion corrupt elites simultaneously--as well as much of the developing billions inbetween.

So, the bottom billion--having destroyed everything and having hardly expanded economically in the past 40 years--is perhaps the place to introduce the "Eden Project" of getting more than post-conflict politics right, by getting development green and politics green from the (re)beginning.

This can be done by explicitly green independent service districts, organized by the commodity ecology teams, and by adoption of the bioregional state's additional ecological checks and balances.

These services could do more than just provide basic services. It can start the global Ecological Reformation that would cover four areas: state, science/educational, consumptive, and financial institutions--working in ecological tandem instead of against the environment.

The educational/scientific institutions might take a clue from Cuba's citizen-run scientific labs--a decentralized "Solomon's House" of pro-local forms of science keen in recognizing the requirements and pecularities of particular areas instead of ignoring them. Cuba has the world's largest organic sector of agriculture with 80% of its production being organic. These 'civic scientific base communities' were instrumental in expanding and decentralizing scientific expertise to allow farmers themselves and local groups to solve their particular ecological issues with agriculture without synthetic pesticides by raising insects and nematode based biopesticides instead of toxic materials dependencies via clientelistic imports.

Such an Ecological Reformation would add consumptive organizational checks and balances as well, making sure the capitalist supply-side sector is always one choice among many market choices of production instead of the only monopoly one that brings its own corruption and damages the market of choice of institutional forms. It can be balanced with forms of local jurisdictional input on materials, technological, and scientific certification so it avoids its own corruptions.

The Ecological Reformation would cover financial institutions as well, with assurances that clientelism to particular singular currencies are avoided as another root of corruption, replaced by financial checks and balances of having recourse to multiple institutionalized currencies equally acceptable as legal tender to assure that a store of value currency is maintained somewhere for the people at large, to avoid elite's artificially creating a loss of buying power by expanding the credit money supply to serve only exchange value instead of store of value. Store of value can be balanced with exchange value by having recourse to institutionalizing multiple currencies equally acceptable as legal tender on national, state, and local areas. Give the people institutional choices of currency to keep them from being clients to an unsustainable form of clientelism.

In short, the wider Ecological Reformation of institutions in general would assure that there is a check and balance in state, scientific, consumptive, and financial areas to avoid supply-side consolidations and corruptions of a country's people, their biodiversity destruction, health destruction, and economic destruction in the cynical name of development that has seldom if ever been anything except depredation writ large.

Here's the Collier film:

Paul Collier's new rules for rebuilding a broken nation
TED Talks, June 2009
"Long conflict can wreck a country, leaving behind poverty and chaos. But what's the right way to help war-torn countries rebuild? At TED@State, Paul Collier explains the problems with current post-conflict aid plans, and suggests 3 ideas for a better approach."

If Collier finds that there is a greater statistical correlation with checks and balances and democracy and long term development that avoids corruption, I expect that a whole additional level of ecological checks and balances will help developmentalism bloom and shine even brighter when it is green, to remove the crony political materials and unrepresentative raw material regimes that keep us from achieving sustainability and keep us at sub-optimal levels. This requires political solutions and institutional checks and balances solutions to remove corruption, because all the materials and technologies for sustainability are already available. It is simply a matter, "of throwing the bums out," as James Robey interpreted correctly when he interviewed me about the bioregional state. Shine on:
"In a cruel, hard word, it's a miracle to find--someone good--someone whose love, it shines!" -- Mick Hucknall

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Centralized Constitutional "Rights of Nature" Comes Up Short Versus Localized Jurisdictions for People Protecting Nature in the Bioregional State

"Rights of Nature" without rights to local watershed development participation is a dead letter: one year after the Ecuadorian Constitutional change giving "Civil Rights to Nature" shows little has changed to remove developmental corruption and unsustainability

The Real Natural Rights of Humanity: Ecological Self-Interest of Localities, Still Demoted in Ecuador

After a year of being in place, the recent Constitutional change in Ecuador in 2008 that gave constitutional rights to "nature" shows the limitations of avoiding a formal institutional strategy to sustainability, argued for in the bioregional state.

The fine print of the Ecuadorian constitutional mandate is that it is a central state model of institutional jurisdiction being maintained. This, in the name of 'representing local nature,' takes rights out of the hands of localities, with the anticipated corruption already being seen one year later in the below article. "A fundamental flaw in the constitution also exists due to [the Ecuadorian President] Correa’s refusal to include a clause mandating free, prior, and informed consent by communities for development project that would affect their local ecosystems." With this additional clause "mandating free, prior, and informed consent by communities for development projects that would affect their local ecosystems" it would be closer to the pro-humanistic bioregional state model: a series of expanded human civil rights over developmental processes that would be greater checks and balances against corrupt unsustainability--in the name of sustainability and environmental security because of local human ecological self-interest being institutionalized.

Other countries are moving on this 'rights of nature' position as well, like Nepal--writing its first constitution after centralized monarchy demoted in the past few years. Therefore, the same centralized corruption difficulties may be seen there as well, without the bioregional state or the "free, prior, and informed consent by communities for development projects" that is required to move to sustainability.

The bioregional state argues that only formal institutional checks and balances like this can bring about sustainability. This is hardly an argument for complete decentralization, because it is a check and balance between both because localities and centralized states can be equally corrupt. The bioregional state argues for checks and balances between both as redress of grievances for both, thus a nested system of jurisdictions. The Ecuadorian model of trusting only to a centralized jurisdictional control over 'nature' shows flaws.

After one year in place, it seem that the Ecuadorian 'rights of nature' is an interesting motif, beautiful on the surface though allowed state level corruptions in charge of administrating the 'rights of nature' and gatekeeping against citizen feedback from different localities that complain.

In practice, Ecuador has shown such constitutional 'rights' fails to mean any systemic change without formal institutional changes to make sure that these rights are exercised out of daily politics by particular regions instead of extra-jurisdictional court cases.

As expected for such symbolic politics, it already seems a dead end strategy due to how the novel mining law in Ecuador is being used to get around this supposed 'right of nature.'

The bioregional state argues that only formal institutional changes to enhance processes of localization and democratization to avoid corrupt centralized elite gatekeeping will bring about sustainability--instead of only lists of presumed centralized rights by themselves. The bioregional state offers a list of novel rights in the Ecological Bill of Rights though always introduces these with the institutions that will practice these rights instead of leaving it half complete as the Ecuadorian constitution notes.

The only beneficial bioregionalist motif institutionalized is that people in localities can represent "nature" in court even if they were left unharmed and even if it is limited to centralized court systems. (This is actively denied in the U.S. system: no one can take another person to court typically for pollution or externalities unless they are personally harmed. A U.S. judge simply threw out a class action suit to protect a river a few years ago, for instance, since he claimed since the specific people in the court suit were unharmed, thus it was an unjustified court case. However, people were harmed, though they were outside the class action suit to stop the pollution and outside the required consent in a sustainable developmental process. This is why localized human jurisdictions are more important than annotated centralized environmental protection rights.

However, second, lawsuits by proxy are opened up with these 'rights of nature' that could slow or make unprofitable any degradative, unrepresentative development. However, another drawback to rely on court cases to establish environmental protection is that the framework is entirely after-the-fact environmental protection (when it may be a lost cause when pollution is already in the environment) instead of before-the-fact (when it can involve political input into future development beforehand: the preferred route of the bioregional state).

As the Ecuadorian constitution now says: "Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature..." They can demand all they want: they fail to actually have power on a durable basis that would be provided by the bioregional state's civic democratic institutions and commodity ecologies.

Since the rights of humans on the local level are embedded in real nature biophysically, rights of local humanity and rights of local nature require combining in institutional forms that allow for their local jurisdictional dominance in economic path decisions, which will yield a state that has different optimalities of human and economic uses of technology and material choices, without demoting common civil rights of the national state. As the working definition of the bioregional state notes:

Bioregional democracy (or the Bioregional State) is a set of electoral reforms and commodity reforms designed to force the political process in a democracy to better represent concerns about the economy, the body, and environmental concerns (e.g. water quality), toward developmental paths that are locally prioritized and tailored to different areas for their own specific interests of sustainability and durability. This movement is variously called bioregional democracy, watershed cooperation, or bioregional representation, or one of various other similar names--all of which denote democratic control of a natural commons and local jurisdictional dominance in any economic developmental path decisions—while not removing more generalized civil rights protections of a larger national state.

My commentary is in the relayed article below:


Upside Down World, September 25, 2008
Title: “Ecuador’s Constitution Gives Rights to Nature”
Author: Cyril Mychalejko

Student Researcher: Chelsea Davis
Faculty Evaluator: Elaine Wellin, PhD
Sonoma State University


In September 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to declare constitutional rights to nature, thus codifying a new system of environmental protection.

Reflecting the beliefs and traditions of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, the constitution declares that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.” This right, the constitution states, “is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to indemnify the people that depend on the natural systems.”

The new constitution redefines people’s relationship with nature by asserting that nature is not just an object to be appropriated and exploited by people, but is rather a rights-bearing entity that should be treated with parity under the law.

Mari Margil, Associate Director of the Environmental Legal Defense Fund, worked closely over the past year with members of Ecuador’s constitutional assembly on drafting legally enforceable Rights of Nature, which mark a watershed in the trajectory of environmental law.

Ecuador’s leadership on this issue may have a global domino effect. Margil says that her organization is busy fielding calls from interested countries, such as Nepal, which is currently writing its first constitution.


For all of the hope and tangible progress the Rights of Nature articles in Ecuador’s constitution represent, however, there are shortcomings and contradictions with the laws and the political reality on the ground. A fundamental flaw in the constitution also exists due to Correa’s refusal to include a clause mandating free, prior, and informed consent by communities for development project that would affect their local ecosystems.

“I expect them [the multinational extractive industries] to fight it,” says Margil. “Their bread and butter is based on being able to treat countries and ecosystems like cheap hotels. Multinational corporations are dependent on ravaging the planet in order to increase their bottom line.”

The new Mining Law, introduced by Ecuador’s own President Rafael Correa and backed by Canadian companies, which hold the majority of mining concessions in Ecuador, is a testament to Margil’s forecast. The Mining Law would allow for large-scale, open pit metal mining in pristine Andean highlands and Amazon rainforest. Major nationwide demonstrations are being held in protest, with groups accusing Correa of inviting social and environmental disaster by selling out to mining interests.

Carlos Zorrilla, executive director of Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag, who has been a tireless defender of the environment against transnational mining companies, says that while the new constitution looks good on paper, “in practice governments like Correa’s will argue that funding his political project, which will bring ‘well being and relieve poverty,’ overrules the rights of nature.”

Yet even as Ecuadoran President Correa embraces the extractive economic model of development, the inclusion of the rights of nature in a national constitution sets inspiring and revolutionary precedent. If history is any indicator, Ecuadorians will successfully fight for the Rights of Nature, with or without their president.

Update by Cyril Mychalejko

When Ecuadorians drafted and passed a new constitution, which gave nature inalienable rights, the US media largely ignored this historic development. In the case of the Los Angeles Times, one of the few mainstream outlets to cover the story, the newspaper’s editorial board trivialized the development (“Putting Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution,” September 2, 2008) by suggesting it sounded “like a stunt by the San Francisco City Council” and that it seemed “crazy.”

“As ecological systems around the world collapse, we need to fundamentally change our relationship with nature. This requires changes in both law and culture, and ultimately our behavior as part of nature,” said Mari Margil, Associate Director of the Defense Fund, who is disappointed in how the US media largely ignored the story.

In Ecuador, at the time of the constitutional vote, the optimism over how the “Rights of Nature” clauses would translate into policy was guarded.

“As exciting as these developments are, it was also inevitable [without the bioregional state] that the people in power would, and will, find ways to circumvent, undermine, and ignore those rights,” said Carlos Zorrilla, executive director of Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag.

According to Zorrilla, a major disappointment has been President Rafael Correa’s new mining law.

“The law takes rights-to-nature loopholes and widens them so that giant dirt movers could easily drive through them,” said Zorrilla, who has been working with communities of Ecuador’s Intag region to resist mining and promote sustainable development. “To mention a couple of examples, the law does not prohibit large-scale mining in habitats harboring endangered species, nor the dumping of heavy metals in rivers and streams.”

Indigenous leaders responded by filing a lawsuit before Ecuador’s Constitutional Court in March 2009, seeking to overturn the mining law, which they believe is unconstitutional. Article 1 of the “Rights of Nature” clauses states: “Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.”

Regardless of the ongoing struggles to ensure that the true meaning and scope of the constitution is upheld, Dr. Mario Melo, a lawyer specializing in Environmental Law and Human Rights and an advisor to Fundación Pachamama-Ecuador, believes that the nature clauses which reflect the traditions of indigenous peoples could offer a path to an ecologically sustainable future. [Development fails to be built from ideological standards, it comes out of the interplay of formal institutional regimes of people who have to be consulted before development proceeds. The 'rights of nature' by itself fails to change the dynamic where the local people--the best people to adjudicate rights to nature because it is in their ecological self-interest--are consulted beforehand. It puts the onus of pressure on them to defend themselves from unrepresentative development instead of putting their energies into constructive, representative development, so this 'rights of nature' is a poor model by itself without other jurisdictional changes on whom is consulted in the developmental process.]

“I consider that the recognition of the ‘Rights to Nature’ as a progress on a global scale and one that deserves to be globally broadcast and commented on as a contribution from Ecuador towards the search of new ways of facing the environmental crisis due to climate change.”

The struggles of Ecuadorian social movements and the Ecuadorian government to uphold the “Rights of Nature” and to create a new development model that places human beings as interdependent parts of nature, rather than dominant exploiters of nature, is something we should continue to monitor and learn from.