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Bolivia's Law of Mother Earth

Juan Flores Salazar

On Mother Earth Day in 2011, President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, enacted the Law of the Pachamama (Mother Earth). The law enshrines the rights of the Earth and puts it on equal footing with humanity. Pachamama has been granted a number of fundamental rights including the right to life, diversity, clean water and air, and to live free of pollution. This establishes a model for the world.

This law is about how to live in harmony, balance, and complementarity with nature, without which there is no life or humanity,” said Morales during his speech at a special event at the presidential palace in La Paz. Morales’ words describe the core of the concept of Vivir Bien or ‘Good Living' that is central to the indigenous worldview.

The objective is to “establish the vision and foundations of integral development in harmony with Mother Earth and Good Living.” The concept of ‘integral development’ involves the implementation of measures to reinforce and create material and spiritual conditions that will better living conditions for Bolivians. ‘Integral’ means that these measures will take into account spiritual, environmental, and cultural issues in addition to economic and structural factors.

In practical terms, one of the main aims of the law is to break up the latifundios (large estates) in which the ownership of Bolivia’s land is concentrated. The law also regulates foreign investment and exploitation of Bolivia -- and make companies more liable in the case of damage to the environment. The law creates the National Climate Justice Fund whose main objectives are to create policies, projects, and strategies to reduce and cope with climate change.

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