I heard a radio interview on the CBC on Friday with David Suzuki, a well-known Canadian scientist and advocate for nature. David and another guest spoke about Ecuador, which, first of all, placed the rights of nature in its constitution in 2007. This was ratified by Ecuadorians in a referendum in 2008. I believe I had heard about the rights of nature before but not paid adequate attention to the concept. The idea that the natural world has rights that are worthy of protecting as opposed to being property is a belief alien to most North Americans. So this move by Ecuador, the first country to protect nature’s rights, is an excellent challenge to widespread, habitual ways of approaching the natural world.
In addition, Ecuador came up with the idea in 2007 to leave a huge amount of oil in the ground that lies beneath the Yasuni National Park. This park is apparently a fantastically diverse and rich area of rainforest. Ecuador, which is not a wealthy country, proposed that it be compensated half the price the oil would bring in for not extracting it. Here is another idea that likely seems impractical and outrageous to most North Americans. Yet I’ve read in The Guardian newspaper that $300 million has so far been given or pledged to Ecuador from countries, foundations, corporations and individuals–money that will be used for renewable energy projects to help finance reforestation, conservation and social projects. The money is not given directly to the Ecuadorian government but is held in trust and administered through the UN.
Though these bold ideas and actions coming out of Ecuador will not save the world in themselves, they seem entirely fitting given the serious problems we all face through global warming and the ongoing destruction of the natural world, on which we depend for life. They are inspirational paths that have the possibility of jolting us out of the usual boxes we find ourselves in and toward much needed constructive change.