Bolivia presents Resolution “Harmony with Mother Earth” at the United Nations

(New York, NY) November 12th, 2009 Speech given by Bolivian Ambassador Mr. Pablo Solon on thursday, november 12th, at the United Nations Headquarters.

Draft Resolution Presentation Speech “Harmony with Mother Earth” (A/C.2/64/L.24**)

One of the greatest discoveries of civilization was the realization that the Earth is not flat and that we live on a globe. Today we are in the midst of a much larger discovery regarding the nature of our home. To know that Earth is not only round but it is a WHOLE.

The Draft Resolution that the Plurinational State of Bolivia presents co-sponsored by Algeria, Benin, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Eritrea, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mauritius, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) is about the Earth as a Whole and the interaction of human beings with that system of which we are a part.The expression “Mother Earth” is used in this Resolution to refer to the interdependence that exists between human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit, as noted by resolution 63/278, which declared the International Mother Earth Day. The expression “Mother Earth” only emphasizes the relationship of humans with the System that we all are part of.

Earth is a Dynamic Planet. The continents, atmosphere, oceans, glaciers are in a constant change, ever interacting in myriad ways.[1]

Our draft resolution is called Harmony with Mother Earth, because the balance of human beings with nature has dangerously altered over in the last century.

According to a study from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), entitled Global Change and the Earth System, the planet behaves as a single, integrated and self-regulating system composed of physical, chemical, biological and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between components are complex and have multiple temporal and spatial scales.

The study states: “Until very recently in the history of Earth, humans and their activities have been an insignificant force in the dynamics of the Earth System. Today, humankind has begun to match and even exceed nature in terms of changing the biosphere and impacting other facets of Earth System functioning. The magnitude, spatial scale, and pace of human-induced change are unprecedented. Human activity now equals or surpasses nature in several biogeochemical cycles. The spatial reach of the impacts is global, either through the flows of the Earth’s cycles or the cumulative changes in its states. The speed of these changes is on the order of decades to centuries, not the centuries to millennia pace of comparable change in the natural dynamics of the Earth System.”[2]

On July 13th, 2001 scientists from four international research programs on global change, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the International Biodiversity Programme DIVERSITAS – adopted the Amsterdam Declaration on Global Change that states: “Human activities are significantly influencing Earth’s environment in many ways in addition to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Anthropogenic changes to Earth’s land surface, oceans; coasts, atmosphere, biological diversity, the water cycle and biogeochemical cycles are clearly identifiable beyond natural variability. They are equal to some of the great forces of nature in their extent and impact. Many are accelerating. Global change is real and is happening now.”[3]

And such statement continues: “Global change cannot be understood in terms of a simple cause-effect paradigm. Human-driven changes cause multiple effects that cascade through the Earth System in complex ways.”

Human activities are unwittingly triggering abrupt changes with severe consequences for the environment of the Earth and its inhabitants.

The effects of these changes are not limited to climate change and affect other areas such as, among others:

  • Dramatic coastal and marine habitat alteration
  • Significant increases in rates of intoxication of terrestrial and marine species
  • Increased nitrogen and methane concentration in the atmosphere
  • Significant loss of the ozone layer
  • Unusual increase in temperature
  • Greater frequency of major floods and natural disasters
  • Significant loss of tropical forests

The second half of the 20th Century has been the starting point for a range of human activities that have accelerated dramatically in the last century. The last 50 years have been, according to several scientific studies, of the “most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of mankind.[4]

These human activities

  • Are approaching or already exceeding the magnitude of some of the great forces of nature,
  • Are operating at a speed that surpasses the rates of normal variability of the land along at least the last 420.000 years of recorded time due to data obtained from the Vostok ice crust.
  • Considering its magnitude, extent, frequency and concurrency have caused, in scientific terms, a “no-analogue state”, a state never seen before in the dynamics and functioning of the Earth System.

The impact of human activities is so great that Paul Crutzen, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, and other scientists propose that we are in a new geological era: the Anthropocene Era.

The analysis of the Earth as a System and its relationship to human activity is a major issue in the scientific and academic world. The “National Aeronautics and Space Administration” (NASA) in its “Earth Science Enterprise” program has posed the following question: how is the Earth changing and what are the consequences for life in Earth? And, more specifically: How is the Earth System responding to natural and human changes? And what are the consequences of these changes in the Earth System to civilization?[5]

The inclusion of an item in the agenda entitled “Harmony with Mother Earth” seeks to promote such reflection, debate and development of proposals at the political intergovernmental level.

This item would allow us to discuss the issue of the Earth in a holistic, global way, in its entirety. We acknowledge and share the progress of the environmental agenda of the United Nations at the level of the biodiversity, the ozone layer, desertification, climate change and other sectors, but we are convinced that this needs to be supplemented with a more holistic approach given the serious global impacts we are witnessing.

Human knowledge always advances by complementing the general with the particular perspective, the sectorial approximation with the global approach.

The proposed resolution seeks to develop a perspective of balance between human beings and Nature. We believe that the concepts of human supremacy on the environment are completely outdated by now. Hence the importance of the concept of harmony, which seeks both present and future human welfare as well as nature’s welfare. After all, there can be neither welfare nor human development if we destroy our mother earth.

1,360 experts from 95 countries that participated in the “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment” conducted at the request of the Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 2001 to 2005 propose that when analyzing and defining the actions that influence ecosystems it is necessary to consider not only welfare of human beings, but also the intrinsic values of the species and ecosystems. ‘Intrinsic value is the value of something in and for itself, irrespective of its utility for someone else.”[6]

It is not about practicing the status quo or inertia to not affect nature. The life of human beings always involves a degree of impact to the planet Earth. The challenge of humanity is for such involvement not to end up breaking the balance of the Earth System reversing against human development itself.

Our resolution puts humans and nature at the center. Our goal is to complement and deepen the concept of sustainable development from the perspective of humanity and future generations, and from the perspective of nature and the socio-environmental system as a whole.

The concept of harmony with nature is in various multilateral and regional declarations such as:

  • World Charter for Nature, United Nations 48th General Assembly. October 28th, 1982
  • Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 3-14th, 1992
  • Declaration of Santiago, II Summit of the Americas, Santiago, Chile, April 19th, 1998
  • Declaration on Environment and Sustainable Development in the Carpathian and Danube Region. Bucharest, Romania, April 30th, 2001
  • UNASUR Constitutive Treaty. Brasilia, Brazil, May 23rd, 2007
  • Fifteenth SAARC Summit Declaration. Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 3rd, 2008
  • Final Declaration, VII Summit of Heads of State and Government of the ALBA-TCP. Cochabamba, Bolivia, October 17th, 2009

Of the approximately 200 items that the United Nations General Assembly Agenda has, about 10 deal with the environment and sustainable development, and none directly addresses the holistic, global and integrated relationship among human beings and the earth system as a whole. Therefore we consider urgent the inclusion of this item.

As indicated by the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration” (NASA): “Global-scale changes require a global perspective, and local and regional changes can only be fully understood in the global context. Integrating our scientific understanding of the major components of planet Earth to achieve a holistic understanding of how it functions as a system is an essential step towards reliably predicting its future course of change.” [7]

In considering this issue, we propose to start with what States are already doing at a scientific, environmental policy and normative level. Sharing the experiences, practices and visions, and start discussing possible common initiatives and exchanging views on the scope and contents of a possible declaration of ethical principles and values to a life in harmony with Mother Earth. The report of the Secretary General that we ask for in this Draft Resolution, where the criteria of Member States and the United Nations System will be collected, will provide valuable inputs to initiate this process.

We propose to start with a non-binding, general guideline approach, to begin to move in a relatively new and complex issue. Having a general framework will allow us to develop new, and strengthen some existing initiatives at a global level.

In the Amsterdam Declaration on Global Change, to which we refer, scientists from the Earth System Science Partnership propose that an ethical framework for global stewardship and strategies for Earth System management are urgently needed. The accelerating human transformation of the Earth’s environment is not sustainable. Therefore, the business-as-usual way of dealing with the Earth System is not an option. It has to be replaced as soon as possible by deliberate strategies of good management that sustain the Earth’s environment while meeting social and economic development objectives.”

That framework of ethical principles and values for a life in harmony with the Earth System would have to collect the substantial progress of the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration deepening and adjusting them to fit the experience and challenges posed by the global reality of the XXI Century.

For these international norms to be efficient, attractive and to have support, it is necessary that they be consistent with the values that guide people’s conduct. To that extent we must try to agree on common ethical foundations. Ethics is the minimum standard that makes a collective life possible. The world in this new Anthropocene era needs an ethical basis on which to stand.

Humankind’s capacity for adapting to the future rests on its cultural diversity and on the biological diversity of the planet. These two diversities are part of the global heritage, of the common goods of our Mother Earth.

Humans have to understand nature and its inherent operating rules that also include us. All people on earth share a common fate. We all live in a world where everything is interconnected and interdependent of all. No matter where we live, what we do affects our mother earth and all of us.

It is our intention that this resolution be approved by consensus while preserving the essence of our proposal. To that extent we want to work with all the delegations to absolve their concerns and gather their proposals so that we are all active participants in this great challenge we have in the XXI century.

Thank you very much.

Source: Bolivia.UN

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