As part of its initiative “to end capitalism” and realize “harmony” with Mother Earth, Bolivia will propose a U.N. treaty this month for the protection of what it calls nature’s fundamental rights. A “Ministry of Mother Earth” would be created, with an ombudsman to hear nature’s cries and translate them for bureaucrats. From the Vancouver Sun’s coverage:

Reflecting indigenous traditional beliefs, the proposed global treaty says humans have caused “severe destruction … that is offensive to the many faiths, wisdom traditions, and indigenous cultures for whom Mother Earth is sacred.”

It also says that “Mother Earth has the right to exist, to persist and to continue the vital cycles, structures, functions, and processes that sustain all human beings.”

So is the treaty designed to benefit the offended cultural groups, or “Mother Earth”? Even if the U.N. were to figure that out, it would be left with an international treaty based on the worldview of a particular segment of the population of one South American country — Bolivia. The country’s indigenous population holds the Earth deity Pachamama in special esteem, and considers humans equal to “all other entities,” the Sun reports. This treaty proceeds from a Bolivian law enacted in January that creates the same environmental institutions in that country.

The most remarkable thing about the treaty is not its absurdity, but its similarity to the American regime. The U.S. doesn’t even need to sign on to the accord, because it already has an “ombudsman” for Mother Nature in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With its broad authority to determine what is best for Mother Nature and to act in her interest, all it is missing is the rights language that makes the Bolivia story sensational.

The EPA does tremendous damage to the private sector in the name of environmentalism. Its clean air powers are a serious burden on small businesses, and its auto regulations add substantially to the sticker price of cars and promote fuels that are more costly, less efficient, and more polluting than gasoline. Even American farmers suffer under the EPA. And of course, there’s no reason to believe that a U.N. ombudsman for Mother Nature would be any more transparent than other U.N. bureaucrats, or American ones.

Bolivia’s introduction of a U.N. Mother Earth treaty ought to be taken seriously—not because the U.S. might adopt it, but because the EPA is already leading the way toward despotic environmentalism. There are better ways to protect the environment than a command-and-control, top-down approach. As Ben Lieberman writes in The Heritage Foundation’s 2011 Index of Economic Freedom reports, free markets are a powerful force for improving the environment:

It is the nations whose economies are ranked as most free that do the best to protect the environment, while the least free ones do the worst. Thus, the same free-market principles that have proven to be the key to economic success can also deliver environmental success and point the way to an approach that advances both concerns.

Kenneth Spence is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: