From Ode: Environmental progress looks south

In 2008, Ecuador became the first nation in the world to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution. The document now asserts that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution” – an innovative new form of environmental legal protection.
And just last month Kenya adopted a new constitution that declares in Article 42, “Every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment, which includes the right – a) to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through legislative and other measures.”
Article 69 of the new constitution also holds the state responsible for maintaining tree cover over at least ten percent of the nation’s land; for encouraging public participation in protecting and managing the environment; protecting indigenous knowledge of biodiversity; and establishing systems of environmental impact assessment.
Obviously, it is easier for a poor nation to implement such rights than to enforce them but Ecuador’s and Kenya’s actions are more than symbolic. They show the possibilities for making environmental protection part of the bedrock of our legal systems.

There’s a lesson here. Are we willing to learn it?


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