Somewhere between Rhetoric and Reality: environmental constitutionalism and the rights of nature in Ecuador
Kotzé, Louis Jacobus
Calzadilla, Paola Villavicencio
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Today, numerous constitutions provide for a rights-based approach to environmental protection. Based as they are on an instrumentalist rationality that seeks to promote human entitlements to nature, the majority of these rights remain anthropocentric. Although there are growing calls within academic and activist circles to reorient rights alongside an ecocentric ontology, only one country to date has taken the bold step to bestow rights on nature in its constitution. The Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008 announces the transition from a juridical anthropocentric orientation to an ecocentric position by recognizing enforceable rights of nature. This article critically reflects on the legal significance of granting rights to nature, with specific reference to Ecuador's constitutional experiment. It first provides a contextual description of rights in an attempt to illustrate their anthropogenic genesis, and then explores the notion of environmental rights. The following part traces the discourse that has developed over the years in relation to the rights of nature by revealing aspects of an ecocentric counter-narrative. The final part focuses specifically on the Ecuadorian constitutional regime and provides (i) a historical-contextual discussion of the events that led to the adoption of the rights of nature; (ii) an analysis of the constitutional provisions directly and indirectly related to the rights of nature; and (iii) a critical appraisal of whether those provisions, so far, measure up to the rhetoric of constitutional ecocentric rights of nature in that country.
- Faculty of Law