Edited by Robert V. Percival, Jolene Lin and William Piermattei
Chapter 3: The rights of nature in Ecuador: an opportunity to reflect on society, law and environment
One of the most significant events in recent comparative constitutional law on environmental issues has been the recognition of the rights of nature in the Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008. It has been claimed that this recognition represents a paradigm shift in the constitutional tradition that goes beyond Western legal culture to include ideas and values from the indigenous peoples of Ecuador. For the drafters of the Constitution, this will involve opening up a new path for social organization, more respectful towards nature, that moves away from consumerism and predation on natural resources, and that concentrates on issues of environmental and social justice. An assessment seems to be appropriate, given the high expectations raised by the drafters of the Constitution and the time that has passed since its coming into force. The aim of this chapter is to make a critical analysis of the inclusion of the rights of nature in the Ecuadorian constitution and then to explore alternative ways of enhancing the protection of nature by relativizing the paradigm of rights as legal and political framework for any social concern. ‘Sumak kawsay’ is a Quichua expression which has been translated as ‘buen vivir’ in Spanish and ‘good living’ in English. This expression pervades the whole text of the Constitution,which points to a deep sociocultural change and ‘a new form of citizenship’, as stated in its Preamble.
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