Catching up

Ecuador has just adopted a national constitution that is the first ever to recognize the rights of nature. Helped by The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in the US, the country’s law now includes ‘Legally Enforceable Ecosystem Rights’ that do not treat nature as property but recognize that ecosystems possess the ‘inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that people possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of ecosystems’.

Bolivia would like to follow suit although is up against a group of land-owners in the East who do not want to miss out on profits from the oil and minerals on which they sit. President Evo Morales has written an impassioned and intelligent open letter saying the planet must be saved from capitalism.

One hundred international political, military, business, and civic leaders from across political lines have launched a new initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons globally, in order to combat the threats of proliferation and nuclear terrorism. Called Global Zero, the initiative will ‘combine high-level policy work with global public outreach to achieve a binding agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons through phased and verified reductions’.

Biomimicry, the practice of developing sustainable technologies inspired by ideas from nature is going (almost) mainstream, at least in the US. Examples of its application include energy efficient buildings inspired by passive cooling in termite mounds and non-toxic fabric finishes inspired by water repellent lotus plants. It’s attracting money, too (to say nothing of ego): engineer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss has just given Harvard University $125 million to create the Hansjörg Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the largest individual gift in the University’s history. Meanwhile the pioneering Biomimicry Institute has set up a database of how nature solves problems called AskNature.org. Founded by author Janine Benyus, the site is described as ‘part manifesto, part search engine, part social network [and] a place where innovators and biologists can meet, exchange information and design together.’

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