by Melanie Strickland

I was really grateful to have the opportunity to address the enthusiastic crowd at the Bank of Ideas today (Sunday 20 November) and explain the concept of Wild Law. This is based on the proposals set out in the book ‘Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice,’ by a South African lawyer called Cormac Cullinan.

The central idea is that we urgently need to radically transform our governance structures so that our laws promote the health, integrity and well being of the Earth system in the long term. At the moment it’s the opposite – most Western legal systems faciliate and legitimise the destruction of Nature – our home and life support system.  Law has developed to support the industrial economy. It has long been the case that corporations are legally obliged to maximise profit for shareholders above all else, and corporations now have various human rights, despite the fact that they are a mere legal fiction. In contrast, Nature is mere ‘property’ in law. She has no voice.

But another way of governing ourselves is possible.  The proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, drafted in Bolivia in April 2010 at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, is an inspiring example of what is possible when the people work together for the good of all beings that share this beautiful, diverse planet. The Declaration recognises the inherent value and sacredness of all life. It recognises the inherent ‘rights’ of Nature – like the ‘right ‘ to exist, the right to be respected and the right to well being and to live free from torture or cruel treatment by humans.   It recognises that Earth is the primary lawgiver – and that we must respect Nature’s limits. 

What are the implications of this for Occupy? I believe that there are deep synergies. Occupy recognises that there is something deeply wrong with our democracy.  To resolve this, we should start examining our governance structures – including our laws.  Our governance structures are like a pictureframe – framing our society. People too often stare at the picture and think about how to make it better. Rarely do they look at the frame.  To radically transform our society into something much more just, fair and equal, we need to change the frame of our law. We need to broaden our concept of democracy to encompass Earth Democracy, where the rights and interests of all beings are represented.  The rivers, trees, and non human animals are literally our kith and kin – we all evolved together.  Justice, equality, peace, human rights – these noble goals that we strive for cannot be achieved without recognising the rights of Nature, since these goals are not possible on a severely degraded Earth.

Occupy and the rights of Nature – these are ideas which are coming of age.

There is a global campaign to get the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth adopted at the Rio Summit next year here. Support it here: www.wildlawuk.org