On the 29th of March the conference “Nature’s Rights – the missing piece of the puzzle” was held in the European Parliament. Activists from United Nations of the Spirit, together with UNS cofounder BA Paramadvaiti Swami, came to take part of the conference and to share the declaration of the UNS. The initiative taker for the Nature’s Rights organisation, Mumta Ito, was one of the key speakers talking about what it means to create a system where nature is considered as a legal personality.
Ito pointed out that in our current model of sustainability, the goal for nature’s rights are at best regarded as to be considered equal to social and economical rights. This is not enough, as Ito claimed that the rights of nature are of far greater significance and the other rights subservient to them. Since nature herself is the foundation for our existence, neither social development nor economical can exist without her and therefore a natural hierarchy of rights already exists.
“The earth is an interdependent community of life and the wellbeing of each member is dependent of the wellbeing of the whole” – Mumta Ito
Nature’s Rights are proposing an European Citizens Initiative (ECI) that aims to collect one million signatures in order to bring the topic to the European Commission. If the ECI succeeds to collect the sufficient amount of signatures, the European Commission is obliged to take the matter up in the council. A draft directive regarding the proposal can be found at the WEBPAGE and was introduced by Mumta Ito during her speech.
The conference was organised together with the Greens, Socialists & Democrats and Nature’s Rights invited by the former two. The Greens were represented by MEP Benedek Jávor and MEP Marco Affronte who opened the meeting by saying how happy he was to see so many people in the conference, showing the increasing interest for this topic. Affronte explained also his personal feelings why he agreed to co-host the event. The fact how the human lifestyle is destructive on such a large scale that we are facing the sixth mass destruction according to scientist, convinces him that the model we are basing our society on needs a systematic change. The first steps towards change can be found with the Nature’s Rights proposal.
MEP Pavel Poc, representing the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, gave also a welcome speech where he asked if not the humans are a species condemned to destroying itself, by worshipping economical growth and seeing that as the only measure of progress.
After the introductions, speeches were given by Hans Bruyninckx, Executive director, European Environmental Agency, Luc Bas, European regional director for International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), prof. Massimiliano Montini from Sienna University & Cambridge University, MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, former environmental minister of Finland and Jen Morgan, a system change consultant and one of the founders of Common Cause. Also a video message from Maria Mercedes Sánches from the UN Harmony with Nature department was displayed.
The speeches touched many times upon the fact that a change of paradigm is needed and what opportunities the proposal of granting nature juridical rights would imply. A system where wellbeing is measured in economical numbers is insufficient and that it is a need to question ourselves how it can be defined on a deeper level.
MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen was saying that there was no other conference at the moment where she would rather be than this on the rights of nature, receiving some cheers from the audience. Pietikäinen pointed out that how we perceive the world is translated to legislations. She mentioned also ecosophy as a philosophy that gives a deeper reflection on what is our relationship with nature.
When the meeting was opened for the public to ask or comment, Swami Paramadvaiti was the first to comment and introducing the United Nations of the Spirit to the panel and audience. Addressing the need for a spiritual approach on what changes we need to see, he spoke about the valuable worldview given by the first nations and who needs to be taken into consideration in the work with rights of nature. The declaration itself is a spiritual one, based on the living experience of the natives and ancestral wisdom keepers.
“Paradigm has been mentioned again and again, but very little idea of what is that change that is required. In India we say Vasudhaiva kutumbaka, meaning we are all one big family and that includes the animals, the ecosystems, the mountains, the oceans. That spells out in a practical way into a spirituality – a nonsectarian, non fanatical, a noninstitutional spirituality.”
The first nations are of importance to the whole rights of nature movement since their worldview and spiritual approach is a practical application on the theoretical perspective. Swami Paramadvaiti stressed the point that with this in consideration the process of paradigm change will move on forward much faster.
Swami Paramadvaiti mentioned also the last European indigenous population, the Saamis, who are in the frontline for protecting the northern Scandinavia from the mining industry.
Thomas Fielder, another activist from the UNS commented that the need we have to do is a social one on a conscious level and that can not be done through mechanical applications.
After the conference, the declaration was handed to all the member of the panel and some members of the audience. New friends were made, as with the spokesperson from End Ecocide in Europe, Valerie Cabanes who also works with the Tribunal against Monsanto. The Nature’s Rights team were then invited to the house of the Brussels activists to part take in dinner and further planning for the future of the Nature’s Rights and United Nations of the Spirit.