Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights
Planet wins equal status with people
While Transocean gives bonuses after Gulf of Mexico BP spill, reformers expect the Law of Mother Earth to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South America. We trim, blend, and append three 2011 articles from: (1) BBC, Apr 3, on Transocean by Andy Gallacher; (2) Guardian, Apr 2, on green rights by John Vidal; (3) and Weekly Wastebasket, Apr 1 (V. XVI No. 13) on insurance by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
by Andy Gallacher, by John Vidal, and by Taxpayers for Common Sense
Transocean gives bonuses after Gulf of Mexico BP spill
The offshore drilling firm responsible for running the Deepwater Horizon rig has given its top executives bonuses for its "best year" for safety.
Transocean was blamed along with BP and Halliburton after last year's massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Eleven workers, nine of whom worked for Transocean, died when the Deepwater Horizon exploded almost a year ago.
A presidential commission concluded that the explosion had been caused by cost-cutting and directly blamed Transocean, Halliburton (the parent of Transocean), and British Petroleum for the disaster.
Despite that, Transocean handed out huge bonuses to its executives citing the company's best year for safety ever.
The company's annual report acknowledges the explosion on the rig, but goes on to say that it exceeded internal safety targets.
Transocean has always maintained that BP is solely responsible for the oil spill. BP contends that Transocean shares liability.
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JJS: Whoever’s responsible directly, in a sense we’re all responsible indirectly, for several reasons. We, as a society, as a government, limit the liability of companies that are putting others at risk in order to turn a hefty profit. We also subsidize them when we should be charging them.
Nor do we pay land dues for the locations we claim. If we had to pay for what we take, we’d take less land and use what we take wisely. In metro regions, we’d build compact cities; in such regions, we could get about much more easily without cars, and so reduce demand for oil, the profit of oil companies, and their political power.
In order for society to move in this green direction, it might be necessary for humans to recognize that the rest of the ecosystem deserves the same rights we do.
Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth
The country is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans -- the Law of Mother Earth.
Bolivia is struggling with rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and more extreme weather events including floods, droughts, frosts, and mudslides. Evo Morales, Latin America's first indigenous president, has become an outspoken critic of industrialized countries refusing to hold global temperatures to a 1C rise.
Bolivia will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
It will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".
The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual worldview which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said, "Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food, and financial crises with our values."
The new laws are not expected to stop industry in its tracks. While it is not clear yet what actual protection the new rights will give in court to bugs, insects, and ecosystems, the government is expected to establish a ministry of mother earth and to appoint an ombudsman. It is also committed to giving communities new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.
Bolivia has long suffered from serious environmental problems from the mining of tin, silver, gold, and other raw materials. Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5m-strong Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, the biggest social movement, who helped draft the law, said, "It will make industry more transparent."
Little opposition is expected to the law being passed because President Evo Morales's ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism, enjoys a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.
However, Bolivia earns $500m (£305m) a year from mining companies which provides nearly one third of the country's foreign currency.
Ecuador, which also has powerful indigenous groups, has changed its constitution to give nature "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution". However, the abstract rights have not led to new laws or stopped oil companies from destroying some of the most biologically rich areas of the Amazon.
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JJS: Nice words are nice but money is where the rubber meets the road. Get rid of subsidies and recover the worth of Mother Earth for everyone, and many of these problems don’t arise. The US seems to be taking a step that way.
The House Agriculture Committee supports big agribusiness every year with billions of tax dollars for direct payments based on a farm's past production, disaster payments, ethanol mandates, marketing assistance, etc.
Federal crop insurance is quickly becoming the most expensive part of farm spending, nearly outstripping the cost of all the other farm programs combined.
While Big Ag gets insurance at below market prices, and a few insurance companies get steady, nearly risk-free business, it's a guaranteed loss for taxpayers. Excluding taxpayer paid premiums, the program has been in the red every year since 1994.
Federal crop insurance covers marginal land. So there is an incentive to plant where there’s flooding or steep ravines subject to erosion. Reducing taxpayer subsidies guides farmers back to time-tested measures as crop diversification and staggered plantings.
In a time of record deficits taxpayers can ill afford yet another program that privatizes profits, while socializing risks. As Congress and the President scour the budget for savings, there can be no sacred ground. Every part of the federal budget must be held up to the highest standard.
JJS: Hear, hear!
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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