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Rights of Pachamama: The emergence of an earth jurisprudence in the Americas

Abstract

Earth jurisprudence represents an alternative approach to the law based on the belief that nature has rights. In this view, a river has the right to flow, species have the right to continue to exist in the wild, and ecosystems have the right to adapt and evolve over time. Proponents of Earth jurisprudence argue that, by treating nature as exploitable resources, contemporary legal systems actively promote environmental harms. Recognising rights of nature, they argue, will transform core values and inspire social changes that promote economic development which respects nature’s limits. Since 2006, rights of nature have been recognised by some sub-federal public bodies in the United States and by the governments of Ecuador and Bolivia. This paper sets out to answer two questions. First, what explains the legal recognition of rights of nature in Ecuador and Bolivia? Second, what factors impede a wider adoption and implementation of Earth jurisprudence? Amongst the constraints, it will be argued, is that Ecuador and Bolivia continue to pursue an extractivist economic development model, with assertions of national sovereignty over natural resources tending to prevail over Earth jurisprudence and environmental conservation.

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Acknowledgments

The author is grateful to three anonymous referees whose incisive and supportive criticisms and suggestions for additional source material greatly improved an earlier draft of this paper.

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Humphreys, D. Rights of Pachamama: The emergence of an earth jurisprudence in the Americas. J Int Relat Dev 20, 459–484 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-016-0001-0

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Keywords

  • buen vivir
  • ethnopopulism
  • neoliberalism
  • Pachamama
  • rights of nature
  • sovereignty