Great insights. Thank you.
I can’t help but chime in on a negative note, though, since you mentioned Bolivia.
I lived in Bolivia for more than two years, from the Fall of 2016 to the end of 2018. Yes, the Rights of Nature are indeed affirmed in the Bolivian Constitution. They are overwhelmingly NEGATED, however — denied and disrespected — in contemporary Bolivian CULTURE. They are negated in the dominant, majority culture of every South American nation.
Bolivia’s constitution was drafted between 2006 and 2008. It was ratified by popular vote in 2009. When I first moved to Bolivia, I believed that inclusion and affirmation of the rights of future human generations and other living beings were the results of popular consciousness. I soon realized this was not the case. Bolivia is just as consumeristic as the US — perhaps more so. There is trash all over their parks and all along their roadways. The rivers of the Altiplano (La Paz, Oruro, Potosí) are so contaminated you would become acutely ill if you fell into one of them.
The government under Evo Morales did nothing to discourage consumerism or clean up their rivers. He promoted oil drilling in their national parks. I supported Evo when he was president and still support him now, because he is far better than any of the alternatives. But environmentalist he is not. Nor are Bolivians in general. They have virtually no environmental awareness, outside of small rural communities.
The Bolivian Constitution was ratified because it was promoted by Evo. No one except a handful of insiders actually read it. In those days, Evo was immensely popular. He was a true man of the People. The leading public intellectual behind the actual writing of the constitution was a sociology and philosophy professor named Raúl Prada Alcoreza. He served as an advisor in Evo’s government for about two years. As advisor, he kept insisting that Evo should work harder to enforce the rights of nature (and the various other truly enlightened, innovative features of the new constitution). Evo turned his back on him, turned his back on the constitution, and Professor Prada left the government.
There is no ecological popular culture to support and strengthen the wisdom of Raúl Prada, or of the Bolivian Constitution’s affirmation of the rights of nature. Without an ecological culture, rights of nature enshrined in a constitution are hollow and toothless. There are no environmental lawyers in Bolivia. There are no environmental judges or legislators. There is just an extractive machine driving Bolivia’s economy, which nearly everyone has to participate in, just to survive, to feed their families. The rights of nature in their Constitution have no more power to stem the tide of ecological destruction than does pretty poetry on the wall of a museum.
When words have no power, when the bonds of trust in language that form the heart of culture have been torn to shreds — as they have been throughout Latin America — then provisions in a constitution have zero effect. Read Eduardo Galeano’s masterful book, The Open Veins of Latin America, if you wish to gain a better understanding of the historical-cultural roots of the dysfunction that I have described. It will break your heart. But we must read such books to bear witness to what has happened.