Gauteng and NW Province

African drive to embrace all life

Fiona MacLeod

The World Wide Fund for Nature’s latest Living Planet Report revealed this week that even two Earths would not be able to sustain current patterns of human consumption by 2030, but a global groundswell movement is nevertheless growing in favour of a legal framework that ensures the rights of nature.

In South Africa, civil society groups are mobilising around a draft People’s Charter for Africa. Couched in similar form and language to the Freedom Charter, it undertakes “to respect and defend the rights of all beings to fulfil their role within the community of life.

Environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan, who assisted in drawing up the draft charter, said it was a pan-African version of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

“People are saying this is what we think needs to be done and we will do it. If governments join us, that’s good, but if not, we will do it ourselves. The same thing happened with apartheid.” Cullinan said.

Twenty years after the first Rio Earth summit environmental sustainability was getting worse, not better, the biennial Living Planet Report stated. Swelling human populations, mass migration to cities, increasing energy use and soaring carbon dioxide emissions are putting a greater squeeze on the planet’s resources than ever before.

“We are using 50% more resources than the Earth can sustainably produce and unless we change course that number will grow fast. By 2030 even two planets will not be enough”. Said Morne du Plessis, chief executive of WWF South Africa.

“Currently, most legal systems only recognise humans and corporations as legal subjects capable of having legal rights. Until legal systems recognise and protect the rights of all aspects of nature to make their contribution to the integrity and functioning of Earth, they will continue to be ineffective in striking an ecologically acceptable balance between the interests of humans and those of natural communities”. Cullinan said.

In recent years Bolivia and Ecuador have changed their Constitutions to grant nature equal rights to humans, and dozens of municipalities in the United States have adopted rights of nature laws.

At Rio+20. The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature aims to deliver a petition it hopes will be signed by at least one million people, asking governments around the world to support the universal declaration.

Cullinan said “The draft charter seeks to articulate an indigenous African perspective and to reflect traditional African ethics that are common to the vast majority of ethnic groups throughout Africa. African ethics have the potential to make an important contribution to the resolution of global environment crises such as climate change”.

Mail & Guardian
May 25 to 31, 2012


I hear it every day, every where. People want to conserve water, but they don’t want any ” big ugly” water tanks to be seen….. I cannot help but to wonder then…. Do we really care or for that matter do we know what we are doing?!

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