Chile : The Rights of Mother Earth in the new Constitution — first time in history

In 2019 the Chilean people in millions demanded the replacement of the Civic-Military Constitution imposed by the dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s. In 2020 the government and the old corrupt political parties reached a “Peace Agreement” to call a plebiscite, in which 78% of Chilean approved the process of writing a new constitution. In May 2021 members of the new constitutional were elected in national elections. The powerful traditional political parties from the right and left who have governed Chile in the last 45 years were overwhelming defeated.

Historically our “pueblos originarios” “indigenous people”, agroecological and peasant organizations, family rural movements, have defended the Rights of Mother Earth, long before the constitutional issuance of these rights. Los Pueblos Originarios in their historical struggles for their territories, their autonomy and sovereignty has been crucial in keeping alive a holistic view of life that intertwined Mother Earth with Humanity. Their struggle as the defenders of Pachamama, and of advocacy of the Rights of Mother earth has strengthening the protection mechanisms of their territories, while the oligarchs and elites locally and globally have continued to despise and criminalized them.

In Chile, during the las three decade a wide range of social ecological and environmental social movement emerged in the political scene, challenging the dominant ideologies and narratives of neoliberalism and socialism/statism. These new national ecological and environmental organisations and networks have been active in putting the Right of Mother Earth high in the new constitutional agenda, as well as climate change, the de-privatization of water, wetlands, glaciers, mining, issues, etc.

In the New Chilean Constitutional Convention, elected members advocating the Rights of Mother Earth, has been the target of most vicious and concerted attacks financed by the national oligarchy, the landowners, the industrial agricultural export sector, whom together own Chilean TV networks, powerful national newspapers, media networks, placing regularly fake news and lies.

Despite the daily and continuous undermining and irrespectively of the abuses, against the elected ecological representatives, members of the Constitutional Convention approved new normative, the Rights of Mother Earth, climate crisis, waste management, non-human animal rights, environmental principles, and pluri-national and ecological democracy. (Subject to approval or rejection in a plebiscite in September 2022),

Rights of Mother Earth (Nature)

In 2022, The Chilean Constitutional Convention approved a series of constitutional articles,
(Art 9): include the recognition the Rights of Nature; “Individuals and peoples are interdependent with nature and together, they are an inseparable whole. Mother Earth (Nature) has rights. The State and society have the duty to protect and respect them”.

Nature has the right to respect and protect its existence, regeneration, maintenance and restoration of its functions and dynamic balances, which include natural cycles, ecosystems, and biodiversity. The State through its institutions must guarantee and promote the rights of Nature as determined by the Constitution and the Laws.

The Law may establish restrictions on the exercise of certain rights or freedoms to protect the environment and The Right of Mother Earth. Other articles, including Article 4 on the Rights of Nature and its definition, Article 6 about the titularity of the Rights of Nature, and Articles 20 and 26 in defense of Nature have also been passed and are already part of the draft as well.

As far as climate and ecological crisis, the new constitution says “It is the duty of the State to adopt actions to prevent, adapt, and mitigate the risks, vulnerabilities, and effects caused by the climate and ecological crisis. The State will promote dialogue, cooperation, and international solidarity to adapt, mitigate and face the climate and ecological crisis and protect Nature”.

The Rights of Mother Earth: A Systemic Transitional Shift

The debate over the Rights of Mother Earth represents both a local, regional, and international shifts from the dominant Eurocentric narrative of Men Rights “Le Droit de l’Homme” over the Rights of Mother Earth.

In the XXI century we have started the transition towards Mother Earth Rights, which represents an important change of human thinking and practices, a visionary shift that gives us new ecological-social and cultural foundations. This thinking shift collides with the historical anthropocentric economic, industrial, financial, political, legal practices that said that the Rights of Nature would be subordinated to Human Rights.

Ancient Eurocentric Legal — Judiciary systems still dominant in Latin America, for example Ecuador and Bolivia, at large the recognition of the Rights of Mother Earth has not resolved the conflict between Nature-object and Nature-subject. At large the predominant legal systems grant the rights to men to be “LEGAL SUBJECTS” and treat Mother Earth to be an “ECONOMIC OBJECT” and economic “externality”. These practice of nature as an object for example, made impossible to expel illegal and extractivist mining activities in key territories to open the field to large mining by local and global companies.

According to the United Nations, there are already 37 countries that have incorporated this issue in some way at an official and institutional level. In November 2016, in Colombia, the Atrato River and its basin were granted rights by the Constitutional Court; The same thing happened in 2018 with the Colombian Amazon. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Uttarakhand in Naintal, northern India, ruled that the Ganges and Yumana rivers are living entities. In 2017, the Whanganui River in New Zealand was recognized as a subject of rights; there, too, in 2013, Te Urewera National Park was considered as a legal entity with the rights of a person. In Toledo, Ohio, USA, it was decided at the polls in February 2019, that Lake Erie, the 11th largest in the world and which provides drinking water to 12 million Americans and Canadians, has rights. Panama recently marked an incredible milestone with a powerful Rights of Nature Law. In addition, there are other proposals underway to constitutionally accept Nature as a Subject of Rights: in Mexico and the Free State of Bavaria, in Germany, to mention just two cases. This international ecological regenerative sustainability shift is expanding.

It is urgent that more and more countries constitutionalize the rights of mother earth and that progress is being made in the construction of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature, as proposed in Tiquipaya, Bolivia, in the year 2010; meeting that was the trigger for the emergence of the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature, built from civil society from all continents, as a preliminary step to a formal tribunal within the framework of the United Nations to sanction crimes against Mother Earth (Ecocide).

The acceptance of the Rights of Mother Earth is, clearly, an international and unstoppable issue. Chile now has the historic opportunity to be the second country in the world to constitutionally free Mother Earth from her status as an object. Despite the achievements so far achieved in Chile, historical experiences have always told us that a constitutional change by itself does not change reality, however, it can help key environmental protagonist and society to undertake the path of Ecological Regenerative Conscious Transformation and Human Empowerment. A constitutional shift towards the Right of Mother Earth, can be used to generate ecological-social-cultural awareness, ecohuman consciousness, and wisdom as a vigorous tool for the widespread changes needed to protect, regenerate, a new harmonious relationship between Mother Earth and Humanity.

The current system is not only “in-sostenible” but also “in-sustentable”, mother earth is irreversible intertwined with humanity. The future of humanity is interrelated with the regeneration, the protection, the taken care of Mother Earth. The Rights of Mother as a legal subject are in no way opposed to Human Rights. Both must live in a qualitative harmonious relationship of equals. “Mother Earth, invited us to be her guests, not to be her owners”

Paradigm shift and system change

The underlying force of this mega-paradigm shift we era in for the moment is in direct link with that: humanity realizes that it has 1 mother, Pacha-mama, and 1 project on this planet, collective thriving. That is « reconnecting » with the consciousness that we are not separated from the earth, we come from the earth, and will go back to the earth (whatever we believe will happen with our soul). The direct consequence is that we gradually will stop extracting without regenerating. We succeeded to destroy most of the living, destroy our seas and rivers, forests, wildlife, in a few decades. Whilst doing that we destroy humanity itself. Just look at the mental health and physical weakness of people today.

The move of the collectives in Chile incarnate, as a first mover, this conscious move to a happy planet most of our youth dream of, without too much hope.
But there is plenty of evidence that nature improves health and longevity. So basically, we have now evidence that destroying nature like we do is a collective suicide.
The shifts starts with us, little by little, reconnect individually to your mother earth, with meditations, and walks, develop respect and gratitude, and love, for her. And then, collectively, with citizens and projects.
There are plenty of profitable solutions for all, to regenerate nature, biotopes, ecosystems, biodiversity, but the condition is to walk out of the naivety of imagining going on with an impunity of continuous extraction and pollution.

« Look after nature, nature will look after you ».

Our “Madstermind” of Club of Brussels who participated in this historical exercice : Prof. Christian Ghymers,

Prof. Carlos Carrasco
Prof. Michel de Kemmeter



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Michel A. de Kemmeter

Michel A. de Kemmeter

Expert in economic transition, keynote speaker, author, consultant and investor. Professor @VUB Vesalius College. Inventor of the “Systemic Economy” model.