Did you know there is a document called the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth?
If you’ve never read it, I invite you to treat yourself by doing so this Earth Day.
Those responsible for its writing did a beautiful job. Its language is eloquently simple. This may very well emanate from the subject matter itself. After all, how can human beings talk or write about our home, this paradise called Earth, and not be touched to our very cores?
Thoughts have wings
When we talk or write about the Earth, there’s a vibration in each of us that serves as an inexpressible connection which we all understand. But because it has no need of words, this powerful resonance has come to be taken for granted. We no longer heed that resonance. Increasingly, we no longer feel it.
That, I think, is why the Universal Declaration was written, lest this deep connection be forgotten altogether.
Written at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth last year, the issuance of the Universal Declaration was actually the culmination of many months of very hard work.
One way to appreciate the changes the Declaration underwent during those months is to take a look at the draft that was published online in February 2010.
According to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the proposed Declaration will be presented to the United Nations by Bolivia – site of the Conference – on or around Earth Day 2011. Its adoption will be a crowning achievement for the United Nations.
This cord wasn’t meant to be cut
A first reading of the Declaration cannot fail to impress, if only because of the dizzying array of subject matter covered. Writing the Declaration was a daunting undertaking, intended to represent the perspectives of all world peoples. It is at once profound and poetic:
Mother Earth and all beings are entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as may be made between organic and inorganic beings, species, origin, use to human beings, or any other status.
It’s pragmatic, yet hard to practice:
The rights of each being are limited by the rights of other beings and any conflict between their rights must be resolved in a way that maintains the integrity, balance and health of Mother Earth.
It’s based, partly, in science:
… the right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens it integrity or vital and healthy functioning;
It’s active, not passive:
… promote and participate in learning, analysis, interpretation and communication about how to live in harmony with Mother Earth in accordance with this Declaration;
… guarantee that the damages caused by human violations of the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration are rectified and that those responsible are held accountable for restoring the integrity and health of Mother Earth;
Finally, it speaks of the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Obvious, Real and True
The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is patterned on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948.
Both declarations state what is obvious, real and true. Because people have become accustomed to living in a world where might makes right, these self-evident truths take on the appearance of something new and radical. After all, where else can you find such ideas?
Too often, we relegate self-evident truths, along with our highest aspirations, to that portion of our brains reserved for all manner of useless, seemingly utopian notions. Consequently, it’s taken many years for the idea of universal human rights to catch on. Today, though, it is an idea with which most people are familiar, and with which most people agree.
Say It Like You Mean It
Not only do both declarations state what is obvious, real and true, but they both require that the promises inherent in the words be fulfilled by living the words.
It is not sufficient just to utter them. We must make them part of our everyday lives. That is why we must “learn, analyze, interpret and communicate” them. What a way to celebrate Earth Day – by beginning to “learn and analyze” the words of the Declaration!
Now we have a ritual to enact each year on Earth Day: reading, in a public forum, the words of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.
Then, to familiarize ourselves with the rights of Mother Earth so we can make them a part of our daily lives, we need to see them in many places, in many different circumstances. Emblazoned on the entrance signs to state and national parks.
Observed as part of First Peoples’ ceremonies that make the idea of communication with Mother Earth familiar to us all. Enacted whenever and wherever American culture is celebrated. Taught in public and parochial schools.
Looks like this Earth Day could mark a new beginning for all of us. Happy Earth Day!
–Vicki Lipski, Transition Voice
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