Renewing the natural contract with the Earth
Until now, the Western White man’s dream, made universal by globalization, is to dominate the Earth and subdue all other beings, in order to gain unlimited benefits. That dream, four centuries later, has turned into a nightmare. Now as never before, the apocalypse can be precipitated by us, as the great historian Arnold Toynbee wrote before he died.
For that reason, we must reconstruct our humanity and our civilization through a different kind of relationship with the Earth, so that she may be sustainable: that is, to attain the conditions for maintenance and reproduction that sustain life in the planet. That will only happen if we retake the natural pact with the Earth and if we consider that all living beings, carriers of the same basic genetic code, form the great community of life. Every being has intrinsic value and therefore has rights.
All contracts start with reciprocity, inter-exchange, and a recognition of the rights of each party. From the Earth we receive everything: life and the means of living. In return, in the name of the natural contract, we have a duty of gratitude, reciprocity, and caring, so that she may maintain her vitality and may do what she has always done for all of us. But we broke that contract long ago.
To remake that natural contract we must act like the prodigal son in the parable of Jesus of Nazareth. We must return to the Earth, to the Common Home, and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness means a change in our behavior regarding the respect and caring she deserves. The Earth is our Mother, the Pacha Mama of the Andean people, and the Gaia of the moderns. If we do not re-establish that link it will be difficult for us to survive. The Earth may not want us anymore on the face of the Earth. This is why sustainability here and now is essential. Either it prevails or we will experience a tragedy of the life-system and the human species.
All the times we have broken the natural contract notwithstanding, Mother Earth still sends us positive signs. In spite of global warming, and the erosion of bio-diversity, the sun is still shining, the sabia, the Brazilian thrush, still sings every morning, the flowers smile to all who pass by, the hummingbirds hover over the buds of the lilies, children continue to be born and confirm to us that God still believes in humanity and that it has a future.
Remaking the natural contract implies rescuing the vision and values expressed in the speech of Duwamish Grandfather Seattle, uttered in the presence of Isaac Stevens, the governor of Washington territory, in 1856:
“Of one thing we are certain: the Earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the Earth. All things are interconnected. What hurts the Earth, also hurts the sons and daughters of Mother Earth. It was not the human being who created the fabric of life; the human being is only one thread in it. All that a human being does to that fabric, he does to himself. … We would understand the intentions of the White man, if we knew his dreams, if we knew the hopes he passes on to his sons and daughters in the long winter nights, what visions of the future he offers their minds, so that they may create dreams for tomorrow”.
On April 22, 2009, after long and difficult negotiations, the Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the idea that the Earth is Mother. This declaration is filled with meaning. The Earth as soil and ground can be removed, used, bought and sold. The Earth as Mother can neither be sold nor bought, but only loved, respected and cared for, as we do with our mothers. This behavior will reaffirm the natural contract that will provide sustainability for our planet, because it reestablishes the relationship of mutuality.
The Aymara President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, never ceases to repeat that the XXI century will be the century of the rights of Mother Earth, of nature and of all living beings. In his April 22, 2009, intervention in the UN session in which I took part with a speech on the theoretical foundations of the Earth as Mother, he succinctly enumerated some of the rights of Mother Earth:
– the right of regeneration of the bio-capability of Mother Earth,
– the right to life of all living beings, especially of those threatened with extinction.
– the right to a pure life, because Mother Earth has the right to live free of contamination and pollution,
– the right of all citizens to a good living,
– the right to harmony and equilibrium with all things,
– the right to a connection with the Whole of which we are a part.
This vision allows us to renew the natural contract with the Earth that, combined with the social contract between its citizens, will, in the end, reinforce planetary sustainability.
For the original peoples such an attitude is natural. We, to the degree we have lost the connection with nature, have also lost the awareness of our relationship of knowledge and gratitude towards Mother Earth. Hence the importance of revisiting the original peoples and learning from them the respect and veneration the Earth deserves.
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, email@example.com,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.