Earth Democracy: Recognising the Rights of Nature, Respecting Human Rights


Prof. Vandana Shiva | Jivad – TRANSCEND Media Service

21 Apr 2021 – Earth Democracy is a world view, paradigm and practice that is based on the recognition that:

1.    The Earth is living. The Living Earth is our Mother. She is Terra Madre, Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, Vasundhara…Mother Earth has rights.

2.    We are all members of the One Earth Family. We are part of the Earth, and not separate from her, not her masters. We are interconnected through the living currencies of breath, water and nourishment. We have a duty to protect the Earth’s Living Systems that provide us clean air, clean water and clean food.

3.    We are part of One Humanity on One Planet. All humans are equal. Our diversity enriches life and cannot be made the justification for inequality and injustice. Future generations have a right to enjoy the gifts of the Earth. Present generations have a duty of Earth Care to pass on the gifts of nature in their full diversity, integrity and purity.

4.    Earth Democracy is based on Living Economies, Living Democracies and Living Cultures woven through the diversity in the web of life. Each life form supports and sustains all others in mutuality and cooperation and harmony. All living beings are sentient beings and have rights. All beings are creative and intelligent.

Living Economies are based on cocreativity and co production by humans as part of the Earth community, respecting the rights and integrity of all. In Earth Democracy the economy is a subset of ecology based on the laws of Mother Earth. We share the earth’s gifts with others . Seed,biodiversity, water , food are commons .Participation as cocreaters in the Earths ecological processes to protect the commons and defend the common good is living democracy. Cultivating the culture of oneness with the Earth is Living Culture.

Earth Democracy is a world view, paradigm and practice that is based on the recognition that everything is interconnected, the Earth Is Living, the Earth has rights, that we have duties to care for the Earth , and regenerate her soil, seeds and biodiversity, her water and food systems. Our rights flow like a spring from our duties.

Earth democracy recognises that humans are part of the Earth and related to other beings. Human Rights are therefore connected to the Rights of the Earth and the Rights of other species.

Earth Democracy recognises that all human beings are equal and have the same rights, enshrined in the UN declaration of Human Rights and other conventions that have evolved to protect the Rights of Women, the Rights of Indigenous people, the Rights of Peasants and the Rights of the Child.

(UN declaration of Human Rights:

Rights of Women :

Rights of Indigenous People:

Rights of Peasants:

Rights of the Child:

Earth Democracy recognises that all human beings are equal in rights, while they are diverse in their race and religion, their gender and cultures. Diversity is not inequality. Diversity goes hand in hand with democracy and the rights of all to their ecological space. Invading into the ecological space of other human beings on the false assumption of superiority and imposing uniformity is at the root of environmental injustice and economic inequality. Imposition of “sameness” and “uniformity” on a biologically and culturally diverse world unleashes violence against nature, her species, and diverse cultures.

All humans are ecologically equal but diverse in culture, race, religion and gender. We have the same rights to food and water, clean air and a safe and healthy environment.

Human beings, as part of the Earth have natural rights to be alive, well and healthy. The right to life is the right to breathe and have clean air, the right to water and freedom from thirst, the right to food and freedom from hunger, the right to a home, to belonging, to land, to the sustenance and livelihoods that soil and land provide.

Since we depend on nature for sustenance, destruction of nature translates into violation of human rights to food and water, life and livelihood.

All ecological problems have common roots in the denial of the Earth as a Living System, and violation of the limits her ecological cycles and processes put on human action.

Violation of the integrity of species and ecosystems, the breaking of ecological limits and planetary boundaries, cultural integrity and diversity are at the root of multiple ecological emergencies the Earth is facing and social and economic emergencies humanity is facing.

Biodiversity, the diversity of species, their mutuality and interconnectedness, creates the web of life, maintains the living planet and the infrastructure of life. I call this nature’s economy, the biodiversity economy, and the living carbon economy. Plants through photosynthesis use the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into living carbon on which all life depends.

Climate Change is a result of disrupting the ecological and nutrition cycles of life. It is a result of shifting from a living carbon economy of care for the biosphere to a dead carbon  economy of industrialism, mining 600 million years of fossil fuels buried underground by nature, and pumping them into the atmosphere as pollutants and Green House Gases into the atmosphere.

The emergencies humans face in terms of hunger and thirst, disease and pandemics are rooted in the ecological crises and the crises of injustice, inequality, and inhumanity.

The movement to recognise the Rights of Mother Earth began after the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009. The worst polluters announced they would shift from legally binding emissions reduction targets to voluntary commitments. Eva Morales, the indigenous president of Bolivia said “we are not here to defend the rights of polluters but the Rights of Mother Earth”. He later organised a “People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth” from which evolved the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, to supplement and complement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(Universal Declaration of rights of Mother Earth:

We do not “give” Rights to Nature. Mother Earth “has” rights. We have to recognise, and live according to her laws . Mother Earth gives us life, she gives us natural rights to share her gifts, and ecological duties to protect and regenerate her.The Rights of Mother Earth become our duties .

We are alive because nature is alive. The Earth gives us life. She is not raw material for exploitation and profits. The ecological crises are rooted in the denial of the Earth as living. Environmental injustice and violation of human rights is rooted in the denial that we are part of the living Earth, that all humans have equal rights as Earth Citizens.

Earth democracy as a world view and practice allows us to recognise the connections between Rights of Mother Earth and Human Rights. It shows us to walk a path to protect both, and ensure the freedom and wellbeing of all.

A movement is growing to define violence against nature and violation of principles of ecological justice as a crime of Ecocide in international law. Across the world people are taking actions to prevent the damage to and destruction of ecosystems which are leading to the harming the health and wellbeing of species, including humans.


All for Nature, All from Nature- For the Well Being of All

While the consciousness of the Earth as living , the awareness of the Rights of Mother Earth, and the movement of environment justice is growing, the dominant system is extending and deepening the false assumptions of Ecological and Human apartheid and Anthropocentrism. The 1 % is offering the disease as the cure.

The new language of “Nature Based Solutions” continues this Anthropocentrism and instrumentalisation of nature. Nature continues to exist in the minds of the powerful only to solve their problems of extractivism and profit making. New proposals to address the ecological emergencies are neither sustainable, nor just. They deny both the Rights of Mother Earth and human rights of indigenous people, farmers, fisher folk, women, working people and the poor.

The language of “Half for Nature” continues Ecoapartheid . It continues to deny Rights of Nature and Human Rights. It denies integrity and rights of the ecological cultures whose forests, biodiversity and land are being appropriated for a new “green washed” extractive economy.

It is an anthropocentric denial of the reality that all life, all resources flow from nature. To protect Rights of Mother Earth and Human Rights, we need to protect the living economies of indigenous cultures. Instead of “Half for Nature” we need to recognize

“All for Nature, All from Nature-For the Well Being of All”

सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaḥ

We are not separate from nature. And Nature is not divisible. Everything is interconnected. We cannot have a future where the 1% grabs all the planet’s resources, continuing on the path of separation and apartheid, resource extraction and pollution.

To say “Half for Nature” is ecologically and ethically flawed. It is ecologically flawed because it is based on the the Cartesian paradigm of separation and division, which is blind to the interconnectedness of the planet’s ecological processes.

Pesticides sprayed on farms reach the breast milk of women in Greenland.


We are one Earth Family on one planet, healthy in our diversity and interconnectedness.

The planet’s health and our health are non-separable.

Invasions into the forests, the homes of diverse species and diverse cultures over the last 30 years of the rule of greed and globalisation  has led to the emergence of new disease pandemics such as Sars , Ebola , Zika , HIV, Nipa…

We can be linked worldwide through the spread of disease like the corona virus when we invade the homes of other species, manipulate plants and animals for commercial profits and greed, and spread monoculture. Or we can be connected through health and wellbeing for all by protecting diversity of ecosystems and protecting the biodiversity, integrity, self-organization (autopoieisis ) of all living beings , including humans.

As Dr King reminded us,

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The fossil fuels burned by the rich in the North are causing the melting of Glaciers in the the Himalaya and threatening the lives of the small islanders.


(Ref: Shiva, Vandana, and Vinod Kumar Bhatt. 2009. Climate Change at the Third Pole. New Delhi.

To say “Half for Nature” denies that the planet and her atmosphere is one. Fossil fuels and Green House Gas pollution by the rich is creating climate disasters for those who never contributed to Climate Change.

The rich and powerful have been Colonising the atmosphere since the beginning of industrialism. They continue to be the biggest polluters. The US is responsible for 40% excess emissions, the G8 or 85% and the Global North for 92%. The Global South is bearing the brunt of the climate disasters- floods, draughts, cyclones and hurricanes.


In “Confronting Carbon Inequality” Oxfam reports

The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth”.


While being the drivers of the problem of atmospheric pollution and climate change, the 1% are using the rhetoric of “Half for Nature” to green wash their next plan to grab the resources of the Earth and displace people, both through an economic model that treats people as disposable and replaceable by robots, drones and Artificial Intelligence, as well new attempts to make the poor bear the burden of  “offsets” in their “Net Zero” economy.


First they mined for coal, drilled for oil, fracked for gas, burning up 600 million years of nature’s work in fossilising her carbon. Now they want to mine the ecological functions and services of nature. This is “financialisation of nature”.

Carbon trade violates natures’s rights by denying integrity of the Earth’s ecological processes. The Earth does not exist for the billionaires so they can continue to exploit her to make limitless profits. The Earth is the basis of our lives and wellbeing. She creates the infrastructure for life through her complex, self organised ecological processes to create, sustain and regenerate life. Carbon trade is a violation of the rights of the Earth to her living carbon which is the basis of life.

Climate Change and all the existential crises are rooted in violating the ecological laws of life. They are systems of breaking the cycles of life by using technologies of extraction and domination, not technologies of maintaining and regenerating life, of giving and sharing.

Violent tools are rooted in a violent world view that presents the problems created by the rich and powerful as problems created by nature.

Henry Miller reminds us

The world is not to be put in order. The world is in order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order”.

Biodiverse, regenerative organic farming is based on the laws of nature and provides more food and nutrition for more people. It intensifies biodiversity and nutrition, health and wellbeing, not chemicals and poisons, disease and profits.

It is the proven path of increasing nutrition per acre by getting rid of poisons. It protects the land by conserving and regenerating the soil, biodiversity and water and the ecological cycles that maintain the Earth’s climate.

Food is the currency of life. Growing food through Earth care is our ecological and ethical duty. Growing food according to the laws of the Earth creates the possibility to play our role as members of the Earth community, nourishing all life – of soil organisms, insects, bees and butterflies, birds and animals, including humans. The denial that we are part of the Earth, her living processes, her nutrition cycles is Eco apartheid.

This assumption of separateness from the very conditions of our being alive and our wellbeing is at the root of the violation of Earth Rights and Human Rights to life, to land, to food and water.

This Apartheid is accelerating and deepening as false solutions are offered to the planetary crises. By violating natures limits and Ecological Laws, Earth Rights and Human Rights are further violated.

The idea of “Farming without Farmers” and “Food without Farms” are a continuation of the false assumption of Ecoapartheid – that we are separate from nature, we can live outside the Earth’s Life Giving processes, and we have no duty to give back.


It is a denial of the disease burden caused by industrial agriculture and industrial ultra-processed food. Lab food is hyper processed food. Health is a continuum from the biodiversity in the soil, of our plants and in our gut microbiome. The recipe of farming without farmers and food without farms is a recipe for destroying the health of the planet and human health. When agriculture is reduced to growing chemical intensive, energy intensive, finance intensive monocultures of “raw materials” of Proteins and Carbohydrates for lab foods, both the soil and our gut are desertified. Destruction of biodiversity contributes to disease and sickness for the Earth and her beings, including humans.

(Ref: Mayer, Emeran A. 2016. “Feeding the Gut Microbiome.” (April 16, 2021).)

To force this disease creating food and agricultural model on indigenous people and small farmers across the world, new conditionalities are being created through “net zero” “nature based solutions”. If “feeding the world” through chemicals and dwarf varieties bred for chemicals was the false narrative created to impose the Green Revolution, the new false narrative is “sustainability” and “saving the planet”.

Agriculture as Earth Care combines respect for the Earth with justice for farmers, their right to their resources- seeds, land, water, knowledge, the right to an independent, sovereign livelihood and the right of all people to healthy, diverse, chemical free food , enshrined in the Right to Food and the Right to Health.

In the new “Net Zero” world, farmers will not be respected and rewarded as custodians of the land and caregivers , as Annadatas , the providers of our food and health . They will be not be paid a fair and just price for growing healthy food through ecological processes which protect and regenerate the farming systems as a whole. They will be paid for linear extraction of fragments of the ecological functions of the system which can be tied to the new “Net Zero” false climate solution based on a fake calculus, fake science allowing continued emissions  while taking control over the land of indigenous people and small farmers. “ Net Zero” is a new strategy to get rid of small farmers in first through “Digital Farming” and “Farming without Farmers” and then  through the burden of fake carbon accounting.

Carbon Offsets and the new accounting trick of “net zero” does not mean zero emissions. It means the rich polluters will continue to pollute, and also grab the land and resources of those who have not polluted – indigenous people and small farmers -for carbon offsets.

Digital Giants like Gates are emerging as the new landlords shaping the future of agriculture .

American agriculture today is being transformed as farmers employ new technologies and Big Data to help them manage their crops”.


Gates-linked Cottonwood Ag is one of the founding members of a new coalition of farmland owners, operators and environmental groups called Leading Harvest to impose one global monoculture of non-sustainable industrial agriculture on the world through is working to come up with “verifiable standards for sustainable farming” and create “a kind of sustainability seal of approval certifying that a given farm meets environmental standards”.


An industrial, globalised food system is allowing farmers to receive only 1 to 5 % of what the consumer pays.

Instead of supporting systems that put small farmers , their seed, food and knowledge ensuring that farmers are paid fair prices for food they grow to nourish us, Gates wants to lock them into new systems and control and dependencies and push them to a zero budget economy where they receive nothing for the nourishment, food and health they provide society.

As the Leading Harvest group says “farmers will be paid for sustainability…There will be incentives for things like using less water, fewer chemicals, and storing more carbon”


A global “seal” of approval based on fake science, fake economics of maximizing profits through extraction will create new data slavery for farmers. Instead of using their own heads and cocreating with the Earth, they will be forced to buy “Big Data” Instead of obeying the Laws of Mother Earth, they will be forced to obey algorithms created by Big Tech and Big Ag .

The Billionaires and the financial world are looking at carbon trade as the next big opportunity. Tom Goldtooth refers to it as Carbon Colonisation. Nnimmo Bassey calls it Carbon Slavery.


The language of “decarbonisation” fails to recognise that ‘we are carbon based life forms’ (Andre Leu). Life is living carbon. Equating living carbon with dead fossil carbon is a false equivalence.

Further, this carbon reductionism ignores the fact that the “forests, lands, ecosystems are so much more than carbon stored in them. They are living, breathing ecosystems, cultural and spiritual sites, and life giving for millions of people across the planet”.


Conditionalities under any condition violate democratic principles and human rights. Farmers are guided by Earth care. The culture of Earth care needs to be respected and rewarded because it is centred on Rights of the Earth and Rights of all her children.

Conditionalities based on fake science, fake economics will not stop climate change ,  They will deepen environmental injustice and climate injustice . They will deepen the erosion of sovereignty and democracy which are the true basis of sustainability.

Conditionalities put on the non-polluters by the polluters who want to continue to pollute is unjust and ecologically, morally and ethically bankrupt. It is the contemporary equivalent of the “indulgences” received by the catholic bishops and priests in the 11th and 12th century .The church led by Pope Francis today recognizes that  Pollution is a sin, and the “Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor” is one pain .


“Polluter Must Pay” is an ecological principle in law. Polluters getting rewarded for the work for continuing to pollute while they appropriate the resources of small farmers and indigenous people is a crime against nature, small farmers and indigenous people.

Conditionalities based on fake science and fake solutions will accelerate the violence against the land, the Earth and the farmers. It will of course create new markets, new rents and new profits for the Billionaires.

(Ref: Gates, Bill. 2021. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. London: Allen Lane.

Shiva, Vandana et al. 2020. Gates to a Global Empire: Over Seeds, Food, Health, Knowledge…and the Earth: A Global Citizen’s Report.)

In a world economy organised on the myth of limitless growth and limitless greed, there are no limits. There is a perpetual demand for more land to grow more commodities.

The Amazon is not being destroyed by her indigenous people. It is being invaded to grow GMO soya for biofuel and animal feed, not to grow food.

When the Earth and her people are not at the centre of the economy, but only profits are, ecological destruction and environmental injustice is the consequence.

Life, society and democracy are under threat. The planet and our lives are being destroyed by the brute force misleadingly called the economy. Both economy and ecology are derived from the Greek “oikos”, our home, the Earth. An economy that destroys our home is no longer economy. Violence to the Earth and violence against people is one violence. It is a war against the planet, the people and our future.

The Hopi describe the phenomenon of destroying everything that sustains a society as Powaqqatsi – “an entity, a way of life, that consumes the life forces of beings in order to further its own life”.

This is clearly in evidence today – we are dealing with a destructive extractive system/force that enriches the rich and those who control, and robs people of their rights, health and wellbeing. If we continue along this path, allowing corporations to keep extracting and degrading the planet and impoverishing its soils and citizens, our fragile web of life will be poisoned and broken, the diversity of species will be driven to extinction, people will lose all freedoms to their seed, to their food sovereignty, to their knowledge and decisions; all social relations will be ruptured and broken.

We cannot look for solutions to the emergencies the rich have created through their false assumptions, and their limitless greed.

We can sow the seeds of another future.

Solutions are emerging by returning to the Earth, in our minds, our lives, our relationships ,the way we produce and consume. Earth democracy based on living economies, living democracies and living cultures allows us to protect the Rights of the Earth and human rights of the last person.

Justice and Sustainability are part of one interconnected process. Ecology and equity go hand in hand. Human Rights flow from the Rights of Mother Earth. We can shift from the emergency creating paradigm and economic model that is degenerating the Earth and our lives ,to paradigms and practices that reduce our ecological foot print while expanding and deepening our hand print, heart print and head print,regenerating both Nature and Society , connected as One Earth Family through Cooperation and Mutuality, Compassion and Care.

As Gandhi said

The Earth has enough for everyone’s needs but not for a few people’s greed


TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.

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