When we hear the whisper of Mother Earth or Mother Nature, immediately feelings of calm, security and serenity envelope us. The association of “Mother” with “Earth” connotes caring and generosity. You need not delve deep into the etymological rationale behind the label, “Mother Earth”. Mankind tends to selectively forget, or even ignore the two-way street that embodies the mutually beneficiary relationship between the Earth and us. Or so I thought.
Enter Bolivia, a country that has been under fire recently from natural catastrophes. The country is struggling to manage the influx of extreme weather from droughts to frequent floods. Tragically, in February 2011, a mudslide razed an entire neighborhood near the capital La Paz. In response to dire climatic straits, Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting Mother Nature rights . These rights entail the right to life and to exist; the right not to be polluted and the right to pure water and clean air.
Imagine the ramifications if the United States followed Bolivia’s example. We lead the world in emitting over five tons of carbon per person. Surely, our society could not fathom equating the Earth to Mankind. The dignity of rational beings requires that they accept no law that they would themselves have enacted. To strive for similar laws as Bolivia appears quixotic. But it begets the issue of equal rights to land in the conservation discussion.
A change in our land ethics, as Aldo Leopold once mentioned, is inevitable in order to continue to prosper as a society. Laws only control the lesser of men; rather right conduct controls the greater one. It starts with the individual as the onus is personally on each of us to slowly begin to change the way we interact with our surrounding environment. To begin to care for Mother Nature is just a small, albeit necessary, step.
The advent of reconciliation ecology should be welcomed with open arms. We must pay close attention to the treatment of our land. Instead of backing off, we should reassess how we modify habitats for our own gain. The carbon footprint we are currently leaving can be seen from outer space as Mankind sloppily trudges through the biosphere. We must remove these heavy boots that burden our greed and adopt a more careful footprint.
It is not an arms race between Mother Earth and us. On the contrary, it is an interdependent relationship that allows us to both to grow and prosper. An increased environmental awareness and respect will allow for a sum greater than both its parts. An apt quote was said by Chief Seattle in 1954, “Man does not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”