Universal Declaration of (*cough*) Plant Rights

Oh, those crazy Venezualans. In honour of the 56th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (UDHR), they have now introduced to the world, with the help of a long list of botanical groupies, the "UDPR" — the "Universal Declaration of Plant Rights". It was THE "can’t miss" cultural event of the year:

The solemn act concluded with famous composer and singer Leonor Fuguet who is also the author of numerous excellent "green songs."

Every lofty and noble concern has been covered off in the document, including habitat preservation and the protection of plant species from extinction, illegal collection, and clear-cutting. However, I am happy to report that not even the humblest shrub at the mercy of the most incompetent gardener has been forgotten:

Article 7. Avoid cruelty against plants such as inadequate pruning or excessive lopping or any other unwise procedure, which often can cause the death of the plant.

No doubt relentless lobbying from pressure groups like PlantAmnesty ("PlantAmnesty’s mission is to end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs.") resulted in the inclusion of that particular article.

Full Article

Published: Friday, December 10, 2004
Bylined to: Sven Nehlin

Universal Declaration of Plant Rights (UDPR)  ‘baptized’ in Caracas with the green leaves of a fern tree

AVEPALMAS president Sven Nehlin reports that today’s 56th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), has been celebrated with another important document, symbolically ‘baptized’  with the green leaves of a fern tree.

Signed unanimously in the auditorium of Fundacion La Salle (Caracas) the Universal Declaration of Plant Rights (UDPR) has been elaborated by the Asociacion Venezolana de Palmas (AVEPALMAS).

A lecture on the germination of palm seeds by Professor Carlos Capisto, preceded a new song dedicated to the palms sung for the first time by Col. Candelario Rodriguez, the composer and author of several songs with a message to conserve Nature.

The solemn act concluded with famous composer and singer Leonor Fuguet who is also the author of numerous excellent "green songs."

The Universal Declaration of Plant Rights (UDPR) has been approved by representatives from the Venezuela botanical gardens in, the Venezuelan Natural Sciences Academy (Sociedad Venezolana de Ciéncias Naturales), Friends of the Trees Society (Sociedad Amigos del Arbol – SADARBOL), the Caracas Garden Club, Centro Excursionistas Caracas (CEC), AVEPALMAS and other conservationist groupings and will be presented to UNESCO Venezuelan representation in Caracas.



Whereas: Due to the immense and alarming disappearance of vegetation in the world, especially in the tropics, where there is a marked abundance of life, we humans, having mental capacity and ability to reason, have to speak up in the defense of all living beings on earth, particularly on behalf of plants, which is at the same time in our own interest.

Whereas: It has been shown that – as the world population grows – the economic development of humans occurs at the expense of Nature. For that reason it is important to take immediate action to reduce the damage caused to Nature.

Whereas: Plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, that is vital for life on earth. Tropical forests are particularly important because they are large oxygen producers in the world.

Whereas: Plants are also involved in the water cycle. At higher altitudes in the tropics there are cloud forests, that give rise to a large number of rivers, consequently the vegetation there is vital.

Whereas: The agricultural practice of "slash and burn" causes damage and reduces soil quality and nutrients levels, reducing its productivity.

Whereas: The uncontrolled exploitation of timber for firewood and over-grazing of animals contributes to the desertification of the land.

Whereas: Indiscriminate mining and the excessive use of chemical fertilizers may contaminate rivers, lakes and seas causing great changes in the balance of the marine biodiversity as has occurred with the catastrophic flowering of micro algae (e.g. in the North Atlantic) and the excessive propagation of aquatic plants.

Whereas: Individuals of the animal kingdom, including humans, live mostly on plants, even if they are not 100% vegetarians.

Whereas: Plants are beings that respond to a variety of stimulus, are capable of perceiving light, and have developed their wonderful harmonious workings in close connection with their environment. These extraordinary beings share the world with us and even share almost one fifth of their genes with us.

We unanimously agree to the following principles and rules:

Article 1. We declare by principle that plants have a right to live, just as animals do, free of excessive human exploitation, be it in the name of science or sport, exhibition or service, nutrition or fashion. The goal ultimately is to avoid the risk of extinction of any species. A healthy vegetation in Nature benefits humans and animals alike.

Article 2. Intervene by all means possible to help species in danger of extinction.

Article 3. Ensure protection in all places, including remote areas with endemic vegetation, from cloud forests, table mountains and high barren plateaus, down to beaches, mangrove swamps and deserts. There are very fragile wetlands as well as vegetated areas close to cities, which must be protected.

Article 4. Protect remaining tropical forests in developing countries against the indiscriminate use of highly destructive mechanized equipment, such as chainsaws or even tools of minor destructive power like machetes. Legislation against the indiscriminate cutting of trees in those countries must be assured.

Article 5. Ban all looting of endemic plants for collectors and avoid buying plants that have not been grown but plundered from the forest. Not create private herbaria of rare plants, which may be in danger of extinction.

Article 6. Let us eliminate all the depreciative words referring to plants. There are synonyms, like sub-vegetation, invasive plants, etc. but above all, each plant has a name, the so called scientific name, which consists of the names of the genus and species in addition to the name of the family it belongs to. This approach calls for education and respect that is learned from childhood and through schooling, including to university level. In this way we learn to observe, understand and appreciate plants.

Article 7. Avoid cruelty against plants such as inadequate pruning or excessive lopping or any other unwise procedure, which often can cause the death of the plant.

Article 8. Limit and aim to halt destructive shifting cultivation (slash and burn) by addressing the underlying social and ecological causes.

Article 9. Avoid fires at all costs. Fire entails the risk of spreading into other zones of vegetation in the neighborhood and can damage forever biodiversity and a region’s climate.

Article 10. Recommend non-degrading methods as alternatives to "slash and burn" practice, abandon the use of fire, reduce monoculture – changing species to be cultivated – and conserve nitrogen-fixing bacteria like rhizobium, and fungus like mycorrhizas, etc. Ask for the assistance of experts in agriculture.

Article 11. Encourage the cultivation of nourishing, medicinal, ornamental and other useful plants of all types and protect them against insects and other animals, preferably in a way that is non-damaging to the environment.

Article 12. The botanist researcher should work together with people, who take care of living plants. Scientific institutions, universities and botanical gardens ought to dispose of trained horticulturists with vast experience in plant reproduction, who take into consideration the feasibility of growing plants at different altitudes and different climates, or an adequate environment is created.

Article 13. Create seed banks and germplasm banks for the genetic care of plants and establish nurseries in each region with its typical flora, not just for man’s utilization for nutrition or ornamental purposes, but for all plants, as if it were a live herbarium to be carefully maintained. Encourage the development of nurseries in general.

Article 14. Seek to have continuity in the care of plants, in public as well as in private collections, frequently looked after by senior citizens.

Article 15. Many seeds are lost in Nature and we humans should help to propagate and cultivate them in a controlled manner.

Article 16. Although the plants themselves try to cure their wounds and diseases, we humans may intervene e.g. with tree seals and fumigation. There are experts in this field just as there are veterinarians for animals to keep plants surrounding us healthy.

Article17. Apply the principles and rules of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) and ban the uncontrolled exploitation of timber for firewood and over-grazing by animals.

Article 18. Use preferably organic fertilizers for growing plants. Dead plants ought to be used in compost instead of burning them and dead trees left in place as habitat for other species.

Article 19. Plants for scientific use may be cultivated in special nurseries or botanical gardens. In modern science, especially genetics, there is an immense quantity of information hidden in plants, that may be studied for the benefit of the plants themselves and for other living beings, including ourselves.

Article 20. We have to learn to share our lives with plants in general and particularly with trees that provide us with so many benefits. Historically significant trees should have special protection.

Article 21. Seek to eliminate the causes that destroy the ozone layer. The deterioration of the ozone layer is harmful to DNA, photosynthesis, pollination, germination and growth of plants. Seek to eliminate the causes of climate change. An increase in environmental temperature has already been detected with important climatic changes and implications for plants worldwide.

Article 22. Empower all movements acting in defense of plants to voice their views and to vote at government level in order that the continued devastation of the planet will not be continued. Furthermore, plants could have the support of an international organization which devotes itself to the rights of the plants, applying the principle of "Reverence for life."


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