Amazon River

Expanding Legal Horizons with Ecocide

Indigenous battles to defend nature have taken to the streets, leading to powerful mobilizations like Standing Rock. History has proven that this kind of indigenous activism can actually change local legislation, as it has in Ecuador, Bolivia and New Zealand. All 3 examples have come from the same idea: mother earth has her own rights. The 2008 constitution of Ecuador was the first national constitution to establish these rights, based on the so called indigenous Kichwa notion of ‘Sumac Kawsay’, which expresses the idea of harmonious, balanced living among people and nature (also referred to as ‘buen viver’):

“We women and men, the sovereign people of Ecuador recognizing our age-old roots, wrought by women and men from various peoples, Celebrating nature, the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), of which we are a part and which is vital to our existence…. Hereby decide to build a new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, the sumac kawsay.”

Key-point for the so-called Sumac Kawsay way of living is to eradicate the importance of property and money, as to indigenous believes and knowledge the capitalist logic does not contribute to a balanced lifestyle. Check out this half hour short documentary on the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador according Sumak Kawsay ways, in which many of the indigenous people explain their very basic principles (documentary is in Spanish with English subtitles):

Other examples and further reading on how indigenous activism can expand legal horizons can be found right here.