United Nations diplomats on Wednesday will set aside pressing issues of international peace and security to devote an entire day debating the rights of “Mother Earth.”
A bloc of mostly socialist governments lead by Bolivia have put the issue on the General Assembly agenda to discuss the creation of a U.N. treaty that would grant the same rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Mother Nature.
Treaty supporters want the establishment of legal systems to maintain balance between human rights and what they perceive as the inalienable rights of other members of the Earth community — plants, animals, and terrain.
Communities and environmental activists would be given more legal power to monitor and control industries and development to ensure harmony between humans and nature. Though the United States and other Western governments are supportive of sustainable development, some see the upcoming event, “Harmony with Nature,” as political grandstanding — an attempt to blame environmental degradation and climate change on capitalism.
Being a conciliatory person by nature, I like to start with the positive. What the Bolivians and animal rights people get correct is the recognition that all is not right in the relationship between humans and nature. This is seen in Genesis 3 where it is clear that Adam and Eve’s fall into sin led to broken relationships between man and God, between man and man, and between man and creation. This broken relationship with the creation continues to this day, and is certainly part of the reason why the New Testament says that the whole creation is groaning as it waits for humans to be made right again (Romans 8:19-23).
Perhaps there are many in the “Mother Earth rights” crowd who are well-intentioned—I won’t question their motives here—but I see several serious problems with this movement:
- I believe a Biblical view of the creation is the correct one, and the one that will lead to the best care of the environment: land, water, air, plants, and animals. The Biblical view starts with God as the creator and owner of everything. In this Biblical view of creation, humans are embedded in nature, being created on the same day as the land animals and being made of the same material. But they are also over the creation, not as exploiters, but as gardeners who are charged with tending the earth only in ways that do not degrade it. When we wander from our role as stewards of the creation (and this wandering can be done by both capitalists and socialists) then the earth suffers along with humanity.
- The attempt to elevate the “rights” of the earth (where do rights come from anyway if not from God?) can easily lead not to greater protection for plants and animals, but to a degraded status for humans in the environment. If a dog has the same value as a human, then doesn’t a human have the same value as a dog?
- Socialism (pushed by the Bolivian Mother Earthers) has a horrendous environmental record. While the capitalist West was making great progress in pollution reduction in the 1960s through 1980s (aided by strong environmental activism and regulation), the socialist economies of the Soviet Union and its satellites poisoned their land, air, and water with reckless abandon. Socialism fails because of a failure to recognize both the individual and collective sinfulness of humans, and therefore cannot provide a solid foundation for environmental stewardship.
What further thoughts do you have about Bolivian Mother Earthism?
Grace and Peace
P.S. Or perhaps I should have said, “If a cockroach has the same value as a human, then doesn’t a human have the same value as a cockroach?”