Van Jones, the Obama administration's controversial former "green jobs czar," has found a new calling: helping to push for a new, global architecture of environmental law that would give Mother Nature the same rights status as humans.
The new movement is almost certain to be showcased at a U.N.-sponsored global summit on “sustainable development” to take place in Rio de Janeiro in May 2012, when similar issues of “global environmental governance” are a major focus of attention.
Jones is taking up the challenge as one of the newest board members of an obscure San Francisco New Age-style organization known as the Pachamama Alliance, which has been creating a global movement to make human rights for Mother Nature an international reality — complete with enforceable laws — by 2014. The Rio summit will create an important midpoint for that campaign.
Jones joined the alliance's board last December, shortly after the organization announced creation of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature to carry the concept around the world—and install it not only in international law but in the statutes of communities and municipalities across the U.S.
He resigned from the administration in September 2009 after making public apologies for some of his past actions, including the signing of a 2004 petition that questioned whether the Bush administration had deliberately allowed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to happen, and his previous affiliation with a self-described communist organization, the Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM).
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature “is working to build a movement of millions of educated and inspired individuals, with thousands of successful cases of enforceable Rights of Nature legislation having been enacted at local and national levels, by the end of 2014,” according to the Pachamama website.
The group also is running a parallel media campaign, called "Four Years. Go.," to build enthusiasm for the same rapid environmental change, using “personal communication, social media and a rich web presence to inspire a movement of people who recognize the urgency, and the opportunity, of this time and stand for using the next four years, through 2014, to literally change the course of history.”
Organizing and advocating just such a radical “green” restructuring of the U.S. economy is the skill set that brought Jones to the Obama White House staff as a “green jobs czar” in the first place.
Jones has continued to advocate those ideas since leaving the administration, as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely associated with financier George Soros, and at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Center for International Affairs.
Now, his green community organizing skills apparently are going global, along with the Pachamama Alliance’s rights-for-nature campaign. Telephone calls and emails to Jones, his assistant and the institutions where he now works as a fellow, as well as to the San Francisco offices of the Pachamama Alliance, had not been returned before this article was published.
The movement that Jones has joined shares its goals with some of the more radical governments represented at the United Nations, notably Ecuador and Bolivia, both nations with substantial territories in the Amazon Basin, and both with close ties to the socialist government of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
Bolivia last week sponsored an “interactive dialogue” on “Harmony With Nature” at the United Nations that included promotion of the same notion of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Mother Nature. By no coincidence, the U.N. debate was scheduled immediately prior to this year’s April 22 Earth Day celebrations—renamed “Mother Earth Day,” at the United Nations.
This year, the global celebrations also start an unofficial countdown to the U.N.-sponsored global summit in Rio de Janeiro next year.
The summit, known in U.N. shorthand as Rio + 20, is intended as a 20th anniversary successor to the famous Earth Summit of 1992, which gave enormous stimulus and legitimacy to the global environmental movement. This time, its aim is to produce new efforts at “global environmental governance,” meaning a strengthened international regulatory framework for environmental issues, and to provide new momentum for a global “green economy.”
Next year’s summit may also offer the “Rights of Nature” movement a chance to unveil at least a draft version of such a universal declaration, a prospect welcomed by the Bolivian sponsors of the April 20 debate at the U.N.
“Rio + 20 is a good opportunity to have that step forward,” said Pablo Salon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the U.N. “It would be like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Salon sees such a declaration as the kickoff to a longer-term campaign to create legislative reinforcing the new Nature rights, and he noted in an interview with Fox News that the Bolivian government asserts it is the first country to give the rights of nature equal status with human rights in its legal system. Bolivian President Evo Morales has frequently said that “the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism.”
Salon also told Fox News that his country is working with an offshoot of the Pachamama Alliance, known as the Pachamama Foundation, on its nature rights campaign, but emphasized that the Pachamama group is “one of many networks” Bolivia is working with on the issue.
Among other things, the Pachamama Alliance claims that through the Pachamama Foundation—a “sister organization” it created in 1997 among native peoples of the Amazon Basin -- it was instrumental in helping to install the same “fundamental rights for nature” it espouses into the constitution of Ecuador in 2008.
The constitution includes such provisos as “Nature has the right to be completely restored,” and it mandates the government ban “introduction of organisms and organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic heritage,” among other things.
On its website, the Pachamama Alliance says that its co-founder and current CEO, Bill Twist, continues to “guide the work in Ecuador” through the the Pachamama Foundation. On its own Spanish language website, the foundation, which is ostensibly an organization of indigenous peoples in one of the most under-populated areas of the Amazon, says it is the alliance’s “national counterpart.”
The foundation says its main purpose is to “promote an alternative and innovative model of development, based in good living and with an emphasis on recognition and respect for human rights and the rights of Nature.” It is promoting an alternate monetary system for use among native peoples in the Amazonian region.
Also, according to a recent posting by the Pachamama Alliance, the Ecuadorian foundation has forged a strong relationship with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty arm, as an official monitor of UNDP investment in the Amazon region.
The website says that its foundation oversees eight development projects financed by UNDP’s Small Donations Program. The projects are “aimed at improving social-environmental problems through community ecotourism, organic cacao production... capacity and awareness building,” among other things.
Its website also boasts its own YouTube channel for the offerings of its mini-production company, PachaProducciones.
The foundation, in other words, is well positioned to become a poster-child in the walk-up to next year’s Rio environmental summit—in the new movement for a radical regime of global environmental law that Van Jones has agreed to help organize.