Democracy to Avert Ecocide

This paper offers a proposal for how to save democracy by rethinking it from the point of view of popular power and the need to avert ecological disaster. I first provide a diagnosis of the current state of representative democracy as a regime type that has corrupted into oligarchic democracy. Focusing on the overlap of oligarchic power and environmental destruction, I highlight the new juridical tools and institutions that have given power to indigenous people to protect the planet in Canada, the United States and Ecuador. By reviewing constitutional law on the rights of nature, indigenous rights, and popular participatory rights, environmental statutes, popular direct actions, and national and international court cases, I conclude that the only effective way to stop climate collapse is to deepen democracy by giving people at the local level stronger political and juridical mechanisms to defend the ecosystems they inhabit against extractivist corporations and oligarchic states.