Last Saturday (27 July) Christian Heitsch and I, from Wild Law UK, led an afternoon workshop at the Resurgence Summer Gathering.  The Gathering took place over a weekend at a small camp on Green and Away’s site in the countryside outside Malvern, Worcestershire. 
The camp’s amenities included organic food, wood-burning showers, crafts,  electricity from the sun and wind, and saunas.  Speakers included Satish Kumar (editor of Resurgence & Ecologist), Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) and Mumta Ito (founder of the International Centre for Wholistic Law).  Evenings ended with music and
singing. 
The title of our workshop was “Unlimited Growth vs. Rights of Mother Earth: Implications of Wild Law for the Economic System”.   Our overall objective was to encourage discussion and reflection on how we might go about recognising and promoting the rights of Nature in our daily lives. The workshop’s ‘basis in law’ was the draft Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, first adopted in 2010 by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The Universal Declaration sets out both the rights of Mother Earth (Nature) and the obligations of human beings to her.  For example, the Declaration provides that Mother Earth has the right to maintain her identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being.  On the other hand, every human being is responsible for respecting and  living in harmony with Mother Earth.  Armed with a synopsis of the Declaration and a brief explanation of its provisions, a very lively discussion ensued amongst the workshop’s participants.
Firstly, the notion of rights was explored:  
  • Who or what had rights? And what were these rights? 
  • Is it possible to exercise what we perceive as our own (human) right to a life of quality (both physically and spiritually) without impinging on the rights of Nature or things in Nature? 

Examples such as agriculture and agricultural practices were contemplated.  Human intent and motivation were considered important factors in signalling respect for Nature’s rights.  Participants discussed the obligation to act compassionately and respectfully toward Nature.  It is important to consider alternatives to the ‘norm’ when engaging with nature while recognising that this is not always easy to do.  In practice compromises might need to be made.  Key principles outlined for guiding our  relationship with Nature in our daily lives include: the notion of holism (or  co-dependence), non-violence, mindfulness and inter-generational equity. 
When asked what obstacles one might encounter in the attempt to incorporate these principles and obligations into daily life, participants enumerated a number of impediments thrown up by society. It is not always possible to act as simply as we would like to. We live in a complex society that is highly interconnected increasing the risk that our actions will have unforeseen consequences.  Fear and lack of awareness were other obstacles discussed, but one participant reminded us of the following quote by Arthur Schopenhauer:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being
self-evident.
 
We were encouraged to bear this in mind when confronting obstacles to complying with our obligations to Nature.  The workshop wound up with a discussion of what actions we might take to better respect and live in harmony with Nature. 
A number of ideas for action were volunteered by participants.  These ranged from the individual: walk the talk, be self-aware, act with loving kindness, hope actively, to the communal: sign the petition to support the rights of Nature, get involved in a European Citizens’ Initiative to give Nature rights, help join up like-minded groups and create chains of action.  Ultimately, there seemed to be agreement that the sharing of ideas and views at the individual level is a necessary starting point for encouraging a broader movement toward living in harmony with Nature.
Our job as workshop leaders was made easy by the willing contributions of participants, and I personally left the Gathering on Saturday with a renewed sense of inspiration to meet my responsibility to respect and live in harmony
with Nature.  Thanks to the Gathering for that!

 


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