Monday, 25 April 2011

Two Views of the World

It's heart and head time again folks. I present a story that is spiritual in nature, but speaks to many people's hopes for a different kind of world. And just to keep our feet on the ground, a counter opinion piece from the ever cheerful Rex Murphy. Talk about different world views.


The Law Of Mother Earth: Behind Bolivia’s Historic Bill

By Nick Buxton

24 April, 2011
YES! Magazine1

A new law expected to pass in Bolivia mandates a fundamental ecological reorientation of the nation’s economy and society

Indigenous and campesino (small-scale farmer) movements in the Andean nation of Bolivia are on the verge of pushing through one of the most radical environmental bills in global history. The "Mother Earth" law under debate in Bolivia's legislature will almost certainly be approved, as it has already been agreed to by the majority governing party, Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS).

The law draws deeply on indigenous concepts that view nature as a sacred home, the Pachamama (Mother Earth) on which we intimately depend. As the law states, “Mother Earth is a living dynamic system made up of the undivided community of all living beings, who are all interconnected, interdependent and complementary, sharing a common destiny.”

The law would give nature legal rights, specifically the rights to life and regeneration, biodiversity, water, clean air, balance, and restoration. Bolivia's law mandates a fundamental ecological reorientation of Bolivia's economy and society, requiring all existing and future laws to adapt to the Mother Earth law and accept the ecological limits set by nature. It calls for public policy to be guided by Sumaj Kawsay (an indigenous concept meaning “living well,” or living in harmony with nature and people), rather than the current focus on producing more goods and stimulating consumption.

In practical terms, the law requires the government to transition from non-renewable to renewable energy; to develop new economic indicators that will assess the ecological impact of all economic activity; to carry out ecological audits of all private and state companies; to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to develop policies of food and renewable energy sovereignty; to research and invest resources in energy efficiency, ecological practices, and organic agriculture; and to require all companies and individuals to be accountable for environmental contamination with a duty to restore damaged environments.

The law will be backed up by a new Ministry of Mother Earth, an inter-Ministry Advisory Council, and an Ombudsman. Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5 million-strong campesino movement CSUTCB, which helped draft the law, believes this legislation represents a turning point in Bolivian law: "Existing laws are not strong enough. This will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional, and local levels."

However, there is also strong awareness among Bolivia's social movements—in particular for the Pacto de Unidad (Unity Pact), a coalition of the country's five largest social movements and a key force behind the law—that the existence of a new law will not be enough to prompt real change in environmental practices.

A major obstacle is the fact that Bolivia is structurally dependent on extractive industries. Since the discovery of silver by the Spanish in the 16th Century, Bolivia's history has been tied to ruthless exploitation of its people and its environment in order to transfer wealth to the richest countries; poet and historian Eduardo Galeano’s famous book Open Veins draws largely on the brutal story of how Bolivia's exploitation fuelled the industrial expansion of Europe. In 2010, 70 percent of Bolivia's exports were still in the form of minerals, gas, and oil. This structural dependence will be very difficult to unravel.

Moreover, there is a great deal of opposition from powerful sectors, particularly mining and agro-industrial enterprises, to any ecological laws that would threaten profits. The main organization of soya producers, which claimed that the law “will make the productive sector inviable,” is one of many powerful groups who have already come out against the law. Within the government, there are many ministries and officials that would also like the law to remain nothing more than a visionary but ultimately meaningless statement.

Raul Prada, one of the advisors to Pacto de Unidad, explained that the Mother Earth law was developed by Bolivia's largest social movements in response to their perceived exclusion from policy-making by the MAS government, led by indigenous President Evo Morales. They have generally supported MAS since its resounding election victory in 2005, but were frustrated by what they saw as a lack of progress. Rather than merely expressing their concern, these movements—comprised mainly of indigenous and farming communities—are pro-actively developing a series of new laws. Their first priority was the passage of the Mother Earth Law, based on a commitment made at the historic global Peoples Conference on Climate Change held in Bolivia in April 2010. To some surprise, the diverse movements soon developed a consensual agreement that was supported by MAS legislators.

Raul Prada notes that, even with significant pressure from social movements, transitioning to an economy based on the concept Vivir Bien will not be easy. “It is going to be difficult to transit from an extractive economy. We clearly can't close mines straight away, but we can develop a model where this economy has less and less weight. It will need policies developed in participation with movements, particularly in areas such as food sovereignty. It will need redirection of investment and policies towards different ecological models of development. It will need the cooperation of the international community to develop regional economies that complement each other.”

Ultimately, though, this is a challenge far bigger than Bolivia, says Prada: “Our ecological and social crisis is not just a problem for Bolivia or Ecuador; it is a problem for all of us. We need to pull together peoples, researchers, and communities to develop real concrete alternatives so that the dominant systems of exploitation don't just continue by default. This is not an easy task, but I believe with international solidarity, we can and must succeed.”

Nick Buxton wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. He spent four years in Bolivia learning from movements fighting for social and environmental justice.

And Rex Murphy from here:

Rendering our sanity unto the Earth goddess
April 15, 2011 •

Does environmentalism rot the mind? I am beginning to believe that the more feverish and agitated greens are suffering from a morbid condition. There is, it appears, no intellectual folly to which they are immune, no frenzied leap off the pier of reason they will not joyfully execute, in their reliably bizarre efforts to horrify the rest of us into supporting their cause.

It was only a few months ago that I read an endearing article entitled: "Was Genghis Khan history's greenest conqueror?" on something called The Mother Nature Network. The article noted the "widespread return of forests after a period of massive depopulation," which arose, of course, thanks to Genghis Khan's hordes slaughtering 40 million people. An upside to ethnic cleansing?

And just this week, Bolivia's President Evo Morales hailed national legislation that would enshrine the "rights of Mother Nature" -human rights extended to Earth itself. Pause to marvel at the powers of the Bolivian legislature. May we note that Morales is a James Cameron fan? I think we may.

Vice-President Alvaro García Linera describes the country's new legislation ("The Law of Mother Earth") as making "world history -Earth is the mother of all." He also gushed that the law "establishes a new relationship between man and nature."

The Bolivian legislation, we are informed by Britain's Guardian newspaper, "has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the Earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities."

Remember this the next time someone says that the science of global warming is "settled," for many environmentalists are inspired not by science, but by spirituality -Andean and otherwise.

What does the new Bolivian law mean? It means that tics that suck the blood, the choking sulphur pits of volcanic vents, the indestructible cockroach, the arid desert wastes and the bleak frigid spaces of the planet's poles -everything from the locusts that despoil, to the great mountain ranges, the earth and all that is in it, are to have . rights. (About the other planets, Morales is silent.)

With Macbeth, let us lament: "O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their Reason."

The proposal combines the decayed anti-capitalism of Marxism with a veritable litany of new-age twaddle and camp spiritualism -paganism in the age of bluetooth and Twitter. Yet it is more than just inane. It is Orwellian, in that it would summon into being something called the Ministry of the Earth, which will provide our planet with an ombudsman, "whose job is to hear nature's complaints as voiced by activist and other groups, including the state."

Why can't the old hag, Mother Earth I mean, get her own ombudsman? And shouldn't that really be, in this context, ombudsperson? I notice, too, how the Earth's "complaints" are to be those voiced by activists and the state, an always convenient ventriloquism.

I am growing more and more confident that the number one threat to the health, safety and future of our planet is the assortment of fanatics who are proposing to save it. They are, as in this farcical Bolivian étude, jettisoning every product of our rationalistic heritage, degrading the advances in reason and science, and regressing to the raw beliefs of those days when, as Milton, wrote "all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones."

When the conscious creature -that would be Man -condescends to worship the inanimate one -that would be the Stone -the order of things is inverted and undone.

Rex Murphy offers commentary weekly on CBC TV's The National, and is host of CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup.

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