On January 11, 2017 Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Provincial Court handed down its decision on the world’s first constitutionally-based Rights of Nature lawsuit. Amazingly, this historic demand for justice—which simultaneously begs for a shift in merely human rights-based paradigms—was made by people who literally and figuratively live in Ecuador’s margins: The Canton of San Lorenzo.
The plaintiffs—the Afro-descendant community of La Chiquita and the Awá community of Guadualito—filed the landmark intercultural constitutional court case against Los Andes and Palesema Oil Palm (i.e. African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis) Companies, on July 23, 2010, a little over two years after Ecuador recognized the Rights of Nature in its 2008 constitution.
Requesting repairs in relation to the Rights of Nature, Living Well (Sumak Kawsay in Kichwa, El Buen Vivir in Spanish), and pluricultural self-determination over territory, the plaintiffs contended that both Los Andes and Palesema Oil Palm Companies were responsible for massive deforestation, widespread biodiversity loss, excessive river pollution, and the subsequent deterioration of health and food sovereignty of the two communities. With the plantations surrounding their ancestral territories—and Chiquita River’s headwaters falling within the limits of the plantations—the communities asked the court to suspend any and all harmful plantation activities. They also asked for the companies to repair the damages.