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Environmental regulations are generally based on compensation principles: you’re allowed to pollute the air or the water, but not beyond a certain level set by the regulation. If you want to pollute more, you can always buy extra pollution quotas. Environmental protection came always after ‘human development’ priorities.
But in places like Ecuador, as in the rest of Latin America, human development has always shown its dark sides
The country, which contains every South American ecosystem within its borders, which include the Galapagos Islands, has had disastrous collisions with multi-national companies. Many, from banana companies to natural gas extractors, have exploited its natural resources and left little but pollution and poverty in their wake.
Now it is in the grip of a bitter lawsuit against US oil giant Chevron, formerly Texaco, over its alleged dumping of billions of gallons of crude oil and toxic waste waters into the Amazonian jungle over two decades.
It is described as the Amazonian Chernobyl, and 30,000 local people claim that up to 18m tonnes of oil was dumped into unlined pits over two decades, in defiance of international guidelines, and contaminating groundwater over an area of some 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and leading to a plethora of serious health problems for anyone living in the area. Chevron has denied the allegations. In April, a court-appointed expert announced in a report that, should Chevron lose, it would have to pay up to $16bn (£8.9bn) in damages.
The new constitution of Ecuador, ratified last week by a large popular majority, goes beyond the traditional ‘sustainable developmentalist’ paradigm, recognizing inalienable rights to nature (Title II, Chapter VII, Art. 1):
Nature or Pachamama, 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 recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.
This can be seen as the first attempt to codify an ecocentric point of view in giuridical tools. The consequences of this shift are still to be observed. For sure, it will be more difficult in future for foreign multinational companies to exploit Ecuador’s national resources and human labor, as the consitution set strict principles against the commodification of water resources, on food sovreignity and for the protection of indigenous people.
[Via: Culture Monkey]