Northern Ireland

Leader of indigenous community in the Amazon makes direct appeal for Ireland to adopt 'Rights of Nature'

Ecuadoran environmental activist Franco Gualinga (left) with vetern campaigner and intellectual Noam Chomsky
Ecuadoran environmental activist Franco Gualinga (left) with vetern campaigner and intellectual Noam Chomsky

THE LEADER of an indigenous community in the Amazon has made a direct appeal to the people of Ireland to adopt 'Rights of Nature'.

Ecuadoran environmental activist Franco Gualinga, a leader of the Kichwa people of the Sarayaku region, used a video message to urge everyone across the island to "cultivate respect for nature", in the way of their ancient Celtic ancestors.

His call comes amid a cross-border campaign for constitutional amendments to embed 'Rights of Nature' in Bunreacht na hÉireann – the Republic's constitution.

In South America, the campaign has been embraced by indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil.

Dr Peter Doran, a Queen's University law lecturer and founder member campaign group Environmental Justice Network Ireland (EJNI), said adopting 'Rights of Nature' would have far-reaching implications for the defence of the natural environment in the courts.

"Ireland may well become the first European state to embed 'Rights of Nature' in the constitution, following the examples of Ecuador and Bolivia," he said.

"In a global context and from the perspective of Ireland, it is a decolonising moment for the environmental movement – the 'Rights of Nature' represent a deep challenge to the hegemonic worldview disseminated through processes of colonialism by the European powers."

The 'Rights of Nature' movement has been championed by communities in the border region, leading to hopes that Derry City and Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council, and other local authorities will develop new policies in relation to planning, community partnerships and biodiversity protection.

Dr Doran, who led a joint Queen's-EJNI submission to the Citizens Assembly, and in June was one of a number of indigenous speakers in the UN's Stockholm+50 environment programme, said Mr Gualinga's message "chimed perfectly with the thinking of EJNI".

"This new thinking represents a radical step-change in our relationships with and understandings of our place within nature or the 'More-than-human'," he said

"The new and emergent environmental movement across the north and the island is a kind of post-environmentalism – it is deeply committed to restoring an ancient Irish insight that nature is alive."

The Ecuadoran environmentalist said Ireland should follow his country's example by embedding rights of nature and legal personhood into its legal system.

"Nature is primary and then comes the human being," he said. "That is why we must return to reflection on spiritual life and cultivate respect for nature.

"We hope and believe that the people of Ireland will support this."