Today’s post is written by Kyle Mahoney, Human Service Coordinator

A nation of just over ten million – mostly farmers and service workers –Bolivia is preparing to pass a controversial new law, granting the earth protected status similar to that of human beings. “The Law of Mother Earth,” would grant nature eleven new rights including: the right to life and to exist; the right to clean air and water; the right to continue natural processes free from human interference; the right to balance; and the right to be free of genetic modification.

According to the UK’s Guardian, Bolivia’s vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, said that the law “Makes world history,” and that “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

The law draws heavily from the indigenous Andean spiritual belief that all entities are equal in the eyes of Pachamama, a deity whose name literally translates to “Mother World.” The Guardian quoted Bolivia’s Foreign Minister as saying “Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values.”

With the launch of the Chicago Cares environmental season, I’ve been reflecting on the extraordinary implications of this codified deep ecology. Many of the comments I’ve seen on various news forums and social media sites say the same thing: this is nice, but it will never work. And perhaps they’re right. But isn’t it inspiring that a nation considered to be one of the least developed in the world  is standing on the precipice of the most forward-thinking law humanity has seen in over 200 years? Isn’t it encouraging knowing that an entire nation is taking a long, hard look at its philosophical roots and truly putting those foundations into practice?

Every major paradigm shift has to start somewhere; so what if many of these rights will be virtually impossible to uphold? What Bolivia is really providing the world is moxie: they’re proving to everyone that you can put your money where your philosophical mouth is.

So what does this mean for us, a community of Chicagoans committed to making a difference? It means that even when a problem seems too great to solve, there is honor in working toward the answer. It means that the decisions of a few can impact the beliefs of many. And, most importantly, it reminds us that we’re each responsible for the impact that we make on the world around us. I think we can all learn from that.

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