Citizen’s United and Bolivia’s Mother Earth Laws

By Terry Gresham

Our mothers threw up their hands failing to get us to eat vegetables. Since then we, the American kids, have become excellent practitioners of the art of eventuality avoidance –we should print diplomas for ourselves– Non-pleasant, unavoidable digestible topics are not getting in easily so don’t even try feeding us climate change. Yuck, no, that’s not yummy. Climate change is not going down without a fight.

“The threat of climate change and global warming, fueled by relentless commercialization and excessive consumption, has turned into a fighting ground for both policymakers and concerned citizens. The coming decade is set to determine not only a collective response to reducing carbon emissions, but the entire future direction for international development and the global justice movement.” – http://www.stwr.org/climate-change-environment

Climate change is so hard for us; environment study equals sophisticated sci-fi contraption devises that few have access to.  How can we trust the internet or TV news to be of the truth?  At the moment, in North America it’s difficult to definitively see too much changing climate that can’t be attributed to a bad year.  We’re  just not feeling it yet or we’re feeling it as a temporary unpleasantness that will pass if we sit and wait awhile.  Our hope in sitting is that climate change talk, too, will pass with time.  The solution to climate change is easy, just don’t talk about it.  Instead, let us divert our attention to topics that do not require a lot of pie charts, measuring sticks, barometers, Geiger counters, statistics, or thermometers. So, let’s do that.

Today, we will NOT be talking about climate change.

Let’s talk about Law.  Specifically, the laws proposed by Bolivian citizens, (“Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra” as contrasted with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

First, Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

“Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: In January, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a divided 5-4 vote, held that section 441b of the 2002 McCain-Feingold federal campaign finance law (Bipartisan Campaign Reform) was unconstitutional. The law prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for “electioneering communication,” or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate… The ruling effectively protected corporate speech the same as individual speech.” http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Citizens_United

In North America, big business–fearing a future full of rules–has sought and attained Superhuman status from the Supreme court. The wealth of some of these organizations exceeds the bank accounts of  nations.

The annual revenue of Motorola, Inc.,” according to Worldcentic.org, ”is almost equal to the annual income of Nigeria, Africa’s second largest economy.”–

The Kraken released now is the ability of corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to political candidates–the Citizen’s United decision.  Imagine a President Monsanto or a Senator Majority Leader, Koch Industries.

“The Citizens United campaign finance decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a Supreme Court majority of conservative judicial activists is a dramatic assault on American democracy, overturning more than a century of precedent in order to give corporations the ultimate authority over elections and governing.” –  The Editors. The Nation

Bolivia’s Legal Rights for Mother Nature

Back-to-back events: Bolivia’s Earth laws and the Citizens United decision are occurring at relatively equal moments in our lifetime. While Bolivia hands much deserved legal rights to the Earth, the US Supreme Court has granted to corporations the right to buy US elections ( Jan. 2010)

“Known as the Law of Mother Earth (“Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra” in Spanish), the legislation will create 11 distinguished rights for the environment, as The Guardian outlines: They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.”  –  Huffington Post

In South America, fearing a future of no rules, Bolivia  has become the first Nation on the planet to grant legal rights to the earth.  At least in Bolivia, the Earth will have “the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration.” But will Bolivia’s little laws be sufficient kryptonite against mega-business Supermen backed by the US who by the way have a military bigger than big.  Remember Nixon and Chile’s Pinochet rule (Video Youtube) It’s not unheard of for a democratically elected Latin American government to be toppled with US support, even without Citizens United.  All it takes is a neo-liberal economic bomb or tank then out is that pesky rogue government along with their quaint little laws.

“ The law’s ripple effect is apparent in the words of Canadian activist Maude Barlow, who said, “It’s going to have a huge resonance around the world. It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta.”  –  BLAKE DEPPE 

We’re not talking about climate change here today.  We’re just saying that it’s interesting that these two events are happening now: corporations gaining unlimited political clout and Bolivia seeking laws protecting their environment. These two happenings are occurring while climate change is not being discussed much in this article or by politicians in North America.   This writer is not discussing whether these two laws are connected to climate change.  My apologies if Climate Change keeps being mentioned.

For those interested in the proposals for Rights of Mother Earth please check out

World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth Building the People’s World Movement for Mother Earth

“The proposals developed by the Plurinational State of Bolivia bring together and build upon the progress made in the World Charter for Nature  (1982), the Rio Declaration (1992), the Earth Charter (2000), and the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (2010):

I.  A DEEPER COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THE 21ST   CENTURY

 II. THE NEW EMERGING CHALLENGE: RESTORING THE EQUILIBRIUM OF THE EARTH SYSTEM

III. TOOLS FOR FIXING THE PERSISTENT GAPS AND ACHIEVE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

IV. THE GREEN ECONOMY AND ITS DANGEROUS AND FALSE SOLUTIONS

V. INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”

– Proposal of Bolivia to Rio +20

We, the American kids whose mothers threw up their hands failing to get us to eat vegetables, might need to eat them now.  I believe these two legal matters will shape the  next 100 years of human existence. Swallowing climate change is not easy so in this article I have  tried to ketchup it over, if you will, with hopefully a more palatable discussion of laws.  In doing so climate change has been mentioned several times. This was not intentional. Climate change just slipped in somehow. I wasn’t trying to mention climate change,  sorry if climate change was mentioned in a few of the links, sorry if I said climate change.

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