Thursday, January 08, 2009

Constitutional Reform: 7th Generation and Ecuador Part 1.

I have been trying to get my head around the differences between two short statement about man and our relationship to nature. One has been around for a while. In fact, in one version, since before we became these United States of America coming from the tradition of the Iroquois. I have referred to it before here and here. It is called the 7th Generation Amendment.
The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations.
The second is new but getting a lot of press recently in Nature or even the LA Times. It is a short section from the text of the new Constitution of Ecuador.
Nature or Pachamama [the Andean earth goddess], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.
Both are short, simple statements. Both have their origins in the world view of the indigenous peoples of these countries. Yet, I find them to be very different. Click Read more! for a fuller discussion of the 7th Generation Amendment. I will have to post again tomorrow on the Ecuadorian Constitution.

I started this because I wanted to make the 7th Generation Amendment the focal point of Green Party Earth Day events. I believe in what it says. I also believe that the championing of ecological wisdom in this manner can being people back to the Green Party.

At the same time, I have a friend who told me that they much prefer the statement from the Ecuadorian Constitution and I want to understand why. The same person objected to the word "use" in the phrasing of the 7th Generation Amendment.

There is an easy argument for the 7th Generation Amendment based on it's long history in some segments of our population. I went back to the short explanation that Walt Bresette wrote for Synthesis/Regeneration 9. Bresette began by identifying the problem that he was trying to address.
State and national legislatures are gutting environmental laws in a misguided effort to in response to the populist "wise use" movement and their corporate backers. The momentum is strong as the political pendulum swings against the earth.

The movement focuses on market value of private property, arguing that environmental laws are unfairly devaluing private property. A too narrow, yet effective, campaign in today's political atmosphere.
If you don't understand this problem, or think that it was something that we have solved, you have only to read my previous post today regarding the way that two "wise use" lawyers sneaked their rhetoric into the San Francisco Chronicle posing as an "article". They are still around and still talking the same property rights line, forever questioning "takings" and, especially in the West, bringing a new "iminent domain" initiative to the ballot every couple of years.

Bresette said that the answer was finally, once and for all time, to define the common property that we all intuitively know exists. He began with the air we breathe and the water we drink and the sunlight that grows our crops and soon will bring energy to all. He stopped at that, but gave to Congress the right to add to, but not subtract from, that list.

The media tells us every day that this country faces the most important challenges in several generations; some go back to the Great Depression, others even further. We are on be cusp of economic collapse and at the same time we have nearly reached a tipping point in the warming of this planet where run-away heating is a real possibility. At the close of her book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert made this predicament clear.
It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.
At question is the idea, drilled into us for so long, that environmental action always comes at the expense of the economy. It was every the same since the auto industry complained about the cost of Nader's seat belts. Again, Bresette was thinking of this.
By simply attempting reform with what is available today, we remain in a stagnated "jobs vs. environment" polarization. In these complex times we must be more creative, yes proactive, and indeed accommodate all of our interests and rights, especially those yet to come.
Even today, I read that economist are saying we can rebuild the economy or we can save the planet, but we can't do both together. Well we must try.

The 7th Generation Amendment is a reminder that we have such an obligation to posterity, an obligation that we must fulfill.

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