The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

About the Book

In April 2010, Bolivia hosted a gathering for civil society in the wake of the failed December 2009 United Nations Copenhagen climate summit (COP 15). It was clear to millions of climate activists, scientists and environmentalists around the world that the UN process had been sidelined by a deal, the Copenhagen Accord, which represented a major step backward in the search by the UN for a binding, comprehensive agreement that would protect humanity and the Earth from the ravages of climate chaos. When more than 32,000 participants from around the world gathered for tahe World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, it was evident that a counter message had to be sent to the UN and the world that a far stronger commitment was needed if humanity is to successfully move to a safe and sustainable future.

Out of this World People’s Conference came a call to protect nature differently by recognizing the Rights of Nature, or as expressed by others, the Rights of Mother Earth. The UN General Assembly proclaimed April 22, 2010, Mother Earth Day, and the Declaration was introduced to the G-77 countries and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon several weeks later. It is the intention and hope of the drafters and supporters that this groundbreaking Declaration will take its place alongside the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a guide for the future of humanity.

This book brings together the voices of acclaimed authors, progressive thinkers, political leaders and environmental and community activists from around the world who share their passion and insights about the Declaration, the Rights of Nature and the urgent need to recognize the unbreakable link between respecting ourselves and respecting the planet – Mother Earth – on which we all live and depend. The authors all reflect on the important question: What would our world look like if nature had rights?

With distinguished contributors such as Maude Barlow, David Suzuki, Margaret Atwood, Eduardo Galeano, Nnimmo Bassey, Pat Mooney, Shekhar Kapur, Susan George, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and more, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth in meant to inform and inspire others about the need to create and ratify a binding instrument to protect the rights of the Earth and all living things upon it.

This new way forward would inspire a new model of governance that places the Rights of Nature – the Rights of Mother Earth – at the heart of existence, recognizing that there is no such thing as a human right unless the natural world is protected now, and for all time.

The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is published jointly by The Council of CanadiansFundación Pachamama and Global Exchange (2011).


Following the December 2010 COP16 conference in Bolivia and prior to the publication of this book, three civil society groups released a report entitled, "Does Nature Have Rights? Transforming Grassroots Organizing to Protect People and the Planet." The report, published jointly by The Council of Canadians, Fundación Pachamama and Global Exchange, sheds light on "the Rights of Nature," a paradigm-shifting approach to legislating resource use. Illuminating essays by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, social and environmental activists Maude Barlow, Shannon Biggs, and others demonstrate the need to broaden legal frameworks to recognize ecological limits, natural laws, and the interdependency of all life.


Should Nature Have Rights? Canadian Perspectives, Autumn 2011

EXCERPT: Vision: The Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth Is Our Roadmap to a Liveable Future, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, By Nnimmo Bassey

VIDEO: Why Nature Has Rights, Vandana Shiva with Maude Barlow, Cormac Cullinan Pablo Solon. Moderated by David HarveyDavid Harvey and the co-authors of the new book, The Rights of Nature, discuss how to transform our relationship with the environment to address climate change and related problems like natural disasters. April 21, 2011

VIDEO: Barlow on Reclaiming the Commons and the Rights of Nature

VIDEO: Barlow on Democracy Now! discussing the Rights of Mother Earth

VIDEO: Maude Barlow calls for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth at the United Nations in New York on April 20, 2011. See a fuller interview with Maude and Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange here.

OP-ED: Andrea Harden-Donahue: One year after BP oil spill, lessons still to be learned in Canada, Andrea Harden-Donahue,Georgia Straight, April 20, 2011

NEWS: Canadian fights to enshrine rights for Mother Earth, Toronto Star, April 20, 2011

MEDIA ADVISORY: One Year After the BP Oil Spill, Renowned Authors, Scholars and Activist Gather to Consider The Question: What if Mother Earth Had Rights? April 19, 2011

OP-ED: UN General Assembly to debate whether Nature has rights, Global Exchange and Council of Canadians, Straight Goods, April 19, 2011