In memory of Desmond Tutu (1931 – 2021)
South Africa and the world lost a great man. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a man loved by South African people for his compassion, unflinching courage, and willingness to speak truth to power, died in Cape Town at the age of 90. Spiritual leader, anti-apartheid activist, chairperson of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a close friend of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, among many others, leader of immense moral stature, and someone who spread laughter, love, and joy wherever he went – he was an inspiration to all.
As tributes to this great man flood in, many refer to the fact that he was a consistent voice for the voiceless. Few know, however, that he spoke up not only for the rights of people but also for the whole community of life and called for people to transform how we relate to Nature.
After the 2010 People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia adopted a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, he made the following statement:
“Successfully addressing climate change and healing the damage which industrial civilizations have done to Earth will require more than new technologies and market mechanisms. It will require a fundamental transformation of our relationships with Nature. We are not the masters of Earth, entitled to dominate and exploit her “natural resources” for our own selfish ends, but privileged participants in a wondrous and sacred community of life. Bringing about this transformation and creating viable human communities that live harmoniously within the Earth community will require committed and concerted action. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth calls upon each of us to embrace our kinship with all the beings of the Earth community and to recognise, respect and defend the rights of all. Now is the time to answer that call.” – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 2010
[Quoted in The Rights of Nature, The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, 2011, published by the Council of Canadians, Fundación Pachamama and Global Exchange, San Francisco, California.]
Today, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) celebrates the life and works of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. A great tree has fallen in the community of life – may the example of his life, like light through the hole in the forest canopy, inspire the new generations to greatness. May he rest in power.
GARN’s Executive Committee and its members