UNITED NATIONS, April 13, 2011 ( – If the United Nations agrees to a draft treaty set forth by Bolivia later this month, “Mother Earth” – including bugs and trees – will be given some of the same rights as humans, a plan that one prominent conservative bioethicist labelled “utter madness.” 


The treaty would enshrine “Mother Earth’s” rights to life, water and clean air, and the right to be free from pollution.

Earlier this year, Bolivia enacted the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth in the country, calling the earth’s resources “blessings” with their own rights. 

Now, Bolivia aims to push for the UN to pass a similar measure, recognizing the earth as a living entity that humans have sought to “dominate and exploit” to the point that the “well-being and existence of many beings” is threatened.

The global treaty would recognize that humans have caused “severe destruction … that is offensive to the many faiths, wisdom traditions and indigenous cultures for whom Mother Earth is sacred.”

“Mother Earth has the right to exist, to persist and to continue the vital cycles, structures, functions and processes that sustain all human beings,” the proposed treaty states.

The treaty would further establish a Ministry of Mother Earth, giving the earth an ombudsman to listen to activists and others who voice nature’s complaints.

UN debate on the treaty will begin April 20, immediately prior to international “Mother Earth Day.”

“If you want to have balance, and you think that the only [entities] who have rights are humans or companies, then how can you reach balance?” Pablo Salon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, told Postmedia News.

“But if you recognize that nature too has rights, and [if you provide] legal forms to protect and preserve those rights, then you can achieve balance.”

Bolivia, said Salon, seeks “harmony” with nature.  However, the new law may signal a sterner rule for mining and other companies prominent throughout the country.

“We’re not saying, for example, you cannot eat meat because you know you are going to go against the rights of a cow,” he said. “But when human activity develops at a certain scale that you [cause to] disappear a species, then you are really altering the vital cycles of nature or of Mother Earth. Of course, you need a mine to extract iron or zinc, but there are limits.”

However, prominent conservative bioethicist Wesley Smith, who has long warned that there is a movement among environmental extremists to recognize “rights” for nature, slammed the plan as “utter madness.”

“I can think of fewer ways to subvert human exceptionalism and destroy human prosperity than to give ‘nature’ co-equal ‘rights’ with humans,” he said. “And remember, possessing rights implies personhood …. this is about personalizing nature and the earth.”

“By obliterating human exceptionalism, we will also destroy the basis of human rights,” he said.

“When I mention the ‘rights of nature’ in speeches, people still laugh and roll their eyes.  It’s time for such, ‘Oh, that will never happen,’ kind of thinking to stop.  These advocates are very serious in what they want to do.  And it will cause tremendous human detriment if they succeed.”

The push for environmental concern is nothing new in Bolivia.  After the election of Latin America’s first indigenous president, Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country distributed pamphlets at the UN in 2008 setting out the 10 “commandments” to “save the planet,” starting with an end to “capitalism.”

Countries that currently support the initiative include Ecuador, which currently has some environmental law, though not as strong as Bolivian, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.