Monday, April 25, 2011
Mother Earth News
Bolivia seeks to extend rights to 'Mother Earth'
"Bolivia will this month table a draft United Nations treaty giving 'Mother Earth' the same rights as humans - having just passed a domestic law that does the same for bugs, trees and all other natural things in the South American country."
This is such a bad idea, but at least it gives me a chance to articulate my own views about nature and to declare that I am profoundly in favor of rights for all humanity, but not for any other living creatures.
I am a humanist. I love people. You take the meanest, lowest bum hanging out in front of the grocery store in downtown Ventura, and that bum is far more important to me than the most beautiful horse in Kentucky.
People are more important than trees, rivers, oceans, clouds, stars or galaxies.
Human beings have rights, Animals don't have rights. Trees don't have rights, nor do frogs or glaciers.
They have life, but they don't have rights, only people. And that just barely. If all the people, in all the lands, had the fullest rights that they deserve, and if we ever reached that state, then I might think about the rest of God's creatures and want to include them too.
But people come first -- in my life they do.
Mother Earth? That's a wonderful concept -- the nourishment and necessity of nature. The inspiration of rainbows, the nuisance of mosquitoes. A cause for wonder, and a cause for frustration as well. We love the earth, we abuse the earth. We are "out of touch with nature."
(This last is so often an accusation against someone else. Those loggers, strip miners, those corporate greedmasters are "out of touch with nature." These accusations are often true, but just as often they are a projection of the accusers own separation from nature.)
But Mother Earth has no rights. No "standing" in court. You know, if you have rights, you also have responsibilities. You can go to court -- yes, indeed. You can also be taken to court. The people of Japan might take
Mother Earth to court at some international tribunal, accusing her of causing the earthquake and the tsunami and the deaths of many thousands of people.
Yes, if Mother Earth needs to make an adjustment in her tectonic plates, can she please do it more gradually, and perhaps give us a head's up?
But animals don't have rights. You can't sue a dog. They don't have religious freedom either, although it would be hard to stop a cow from praying to the god of her choice, mainly because it would be so difficult to realize if a cow was praying or not.
Or bears. Currently bears do not have the right to bear arms. But they seem to be doing quite well with their teeth and claws. And armadillos may not be armed.
Or horses. Some people say that horses are smarter than people. I wouldn't say that. I would say that horses know things that people don't know, and you can learn a lot by hanging out with horses.
Take Apple Jack. He's a horse, a 12-year-old gelding pony. And, despite his small size, Jack is very much the boss of the corral at our small farm. He will walk up to a horse twice his size and fight him to the death -- which doesn't happen, because the bigger horse gives up quickly. Jack is the boss.
But Jack is a rapscallion too, and sometimes he steals Misty's hay. I have talked to him about that -- that he ought to show a little class and not be hogging the hay.
A good horse, over all, is Jack. But he has no rights.
Don't make me seem Old Testament. God doesn't have rights either. Nor the angels. Nor the leprechauns and fairies.
Now, Jesus, if he were to return to Earth, as many folks say he will, then Jesus would have rights because he is and was fully human.
If Jesus came back and visited America, he would have rights, but he would need to go through immigration first.
Can I see your passport, sir?
I don't have one.
Well, you'll have to step in to this room for some questions.
Fine. I have plenty of time.
Tell us your full name.
Jesus H. Christ.
What does the H stand for?
Haleluljah, but you can just call me Hal.
Okay, Mr. Christ, we're having a bit of a problem here, you coming without proper ID. Now, where did you say you were from?
...... But you get my point. Jesus, being human, would benefit and would be subject to due process of law.
Just like he was two thousand years ago under Roman rule.
And our law, our common law, our constitutional tradition, is descended from Roman law -- and vastly improved as well. For instance we no longer allow torture as a method of interrogation. Oops, I was forgetting that President George Bush re-introduced the use of torture. But mainly we have at least eliminated crucifixion as a method of capital punishment, and we provide lawyers to accused persons.
But not then and not now, did we ever give rights to any kind of non-human, and I don't want to change that. Our legal tradition will not be improved by extending the rights of law to other living creatures. And our love for nature will not be improved
There is a good way to treat nature. I am part pagan and part Christian, which is to say, Catholic.I believe in grottoes and maternal spirits.
But that's not an argument, and it does not make good law. And we need the law to be as clear as it can be, and we need to keep it in the service of humanity.
I can understand the people of Bolivia wanting to try another approach. They have suffered centuries of tin mine dictators and cocaine criminals, and the rule of law has been a cruel joke in their country.
Let them experiment with rights for Mother Nature. We might learn something from their effort, but that's their country. Personally I think it's a wing-nut idea and I don't care to try it here.
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