Monti Aguirre at Cumbre Madre Tierra

Day Two of the Cumbre Madre Tierra

October 27 2022, Mexico City – The second day of #CumbreMadreTierra explored the rights of the oceans, rivers and other water sources, and discussed approaches to tackling climate change.

Claudia Brindis, United Nations (UN) Harmony with Nature Program expert and operational director for Earth Law Center Mexico, began the ceremony reflecting back to the work that started in 2013 on Rights of Nature discussions, acknowledging the intrinsic value of nature and the importance of guardians’ roles. Dr. Ricardo Ortega Soriano, director of the Department of Law at Ibero University, discussed the challenges both lawyers and the justice structure have to break the anthropocentric conventions immediately. UN Harmony with Nature Program Coordinator, María Mercedes Sánchez, emphasized the work which started at the first Madre Tierra Forum in 2016 and the following endeavors for the rights of nature in Mexico.

Rights of the Oceans, Rivers and other Water Sources as Supports for Life panel

The first panel of the day, “Rights of the Oceans, Rivers and other Water Sources as supports for life”, brought together:

  • Eduardo Salazar Ortuño, lawyer, doctor of law and UN Harmony with Nature Program and Aarhus Convention expert
  • Nick Leopold Sordo, campaign manager at OCEANA Mexico, focused on the protection of Mexican waters and oceans.
  • Samantha Colli Sulú, lawyer for the UN High Commissioner who works for the Rights of the Cenotes.
  • Lourdes Medina Carrillo, lawyer of the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), member of Human Rights Indignation, and a lawyer for the Mayan peoples of Yucatan. She works for the Rights of the Cenotes.
  • Claudia Brindis, UN Harmony with Nature Program expert and operational director for Earth Law Center Mexico
  • Felipe Clavijo Osuna, constitutionalist lawyer, professor, advisor to the Attorney General of the Nation and former official of the Constitutional Court of Colombia

Eduardo Salazar started the discussion by sharing the case he participated in for the conservation of the Menor Sea in Spain and how it’s an unique case at the European level, and pointing out the leadership of Latin America in Rights of Nature constitutional projects. He was followed by Nick Leopold Sordo, from OCEANA Mexico, who emphasized the importance of the biodiversity in the oceans, reminding us the oceans were formed 3.8 million years ago and it was from the depths of the oceans that all species of the world originated, and how challenging are the process for their preservation. 

“Not only are the oceans the origin of life, but they are also responsible for life continuing to exist. Today 80% of the planet’s wildlife biomass exists in the oceans”, said Nick Leopold Sordo

Samantha Colli Sulú and Lourdes Medina Carrillo focused on the preservation process that is happening with cenotes. Samantha explained the historical relationship of Mexican communities with cenotes, and reflecting on the Atrato River legal agreement in Colombia. Lourdes Media reinforced the collective work of the environmental and social sciences in defense of nature, and working together with the original communities. She shared the legal work they are doing with cenotes, specifically in the Yucatan area. “It is the country’s most important underground water reserve, on which 32% of Mexico’s average annual capacity depends”, explained Lourdes.

In her speech, Claudia Brindis recalled the importance of Earth Law Center’s work in Oaxaca and the need for humans to remember that we are one part of all nature, reinforcing the importance of the international work on the guardian of nature role. She was followed by Felipe Clavijo Osuna who discussed several ways to develop the rights of nature in constitutions, emphazing the importance of the Atrato River case for the Colombian court.

Climate Change and the Rights of Nature Panel

The next panel highlighted the fight against and mitigation of climate change and connecting the recognition of the Rights of Nature. Speakers included:

  • Arnoldo Matus Kramer, co-founder, and executive director of Ithaca Environmental, an organization specializing in climate change
  • Miguel Valencia Mulkay founder of Ecocomunidades (the autonomous ecologist network of the cuenca de México), the network in the defense of the City of Mexico and the Cambiemos el Sistema No el Clima collective
  • Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, doctor in environmental sciences, and executive director of the Mexico Climate Initiative
  • Jorge Calderón Gamboa, UN Harmony with Nature Program expert and secretary of the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice

Arnoldo Matus started the panel warning that we are already experiencing climate change, highlighting the consequences on reefs and glacial structures and the importance of the biological corridors. With an inspiring speech, Miguel Valencia Mulkay spoke of the importance of the small group of activists, local communities and scientists that are trying to change this situation. He reinforced that governments should use their official data to understand the real situation of climate change, and to “no longer advocating economic growth and technology as the saviors of our problems”.

Adrián Fernández Bremauntz discussed how we live today in a culture addicted to anthropocentrism. The scientist also warned that today there is data of climate change everywhere in the world, and explained that on the physical and chemical side it would be possible to reverse this reality, but that he doesn’t know if this would be possible on the political side. Jorge Calderón Gamboa followed the discussion by explaining that environmental rights are very new and recalling important cases from Mexico on climate change issues.

“Especially since the industrial revolution, human beings are altering the natural conditions of nature in two ways: On the one hand, we are affecting the living side of nature, creating the catastrophe of biodiversity loss, and on the other hand we are also changing the conditions of the living part of our planet, also changing the chemical and biological conditions”, said Adrián Fernández Bremauntz. 

Keynote speaker: International Rivers’ Monti Aguirre 

Closing the second day of Cumbre Madre Tierra, International Rivers’ Latin America Program Manager Monti Aguirre inspired the audience with her speech about “From Silenced Rivers to Rivers with Rights: Experiences in the Courts, Negotiations and the Law”, sharing international cases and focusing on the process of Rights of Rivers and other river and rights protections that International Rivers has been working for more than 35 years. In her speech, Monti reminded us that small groups of people can do huge things together, boldy.

“We are here today together, and together to build and think of how to take our world to a side of more harmony, a world where the rights of original communities and different ethnic groups and nature are respected. We are all nature”, said Monti Aguirre

She explained how International Rivers started in the 1970s with a small group of people who had the dream to protect rivers and how it continues today making these protections and actions around the world.

Monti shared the importance of rivers and how industry and human actions are destroying rivers and the species and communities that depend on them. “We are coming to a critical point”, she said.

Getting into the work of river protection, Monti Aguirre shared that in the last few years the Rights of Rivers field is increasing and becoming more popular worldwide, recalling the importance of the transboundary and border rivers between countries, such as the Marañón  River. Aguirre explained the protection attributes inside the Rights of Rivers area and the significance of developed mechanisms for protection and restoration, remembering the challenge to prioritize and invest in these areas. As examples, Monti shared the case of the legislation in the United States and some specific other cases in Suecia, Noruega, New Zealand and Colombia. The Latin America program manager of International Rivers also recalled the importance of the close participation of local communities in river rights processes, as well as the essentiality to learn and build with the communities’ worldview.

See more photos of day one and two here.