What idea is powerful enough to heal the relationship between humans and nature?

Sigtuna, Sweden April 21-22 2017

Sigtuna May 10-11, 2019
Sigtuna May 10-11, 2019


The material on this site is from the Earth Rights Conference 2017, which took place in Sigtuna, Sweden April 21-22.
A space for dialogue and co-creation about the idea that nature, not just humans, have rights.

Declaration by the Earth Rights Conference participants 2017


We, participants of the 2017 Earth Rights Conference in Sigtuna, Sweden, have gathered from five continents, twelve countries and indigenous peoples such as the Sámi people in Scandinavia and the Sarayaku people and Quechua nation of South America.

Because of the accelerating socio-ecological challenges and wounds caused by the modern human-centered worldview which has emphasized our separation from each other and from nature,

We recognize and support:

  • The need of an earth-centered worldview emphasizing the interconnectedness of all beings, as well as the urgent need to implement this worldview in our legal systems,
  • The indigenous peoples’ knowledge and rights to territories and organizational forms and livelihoods based on a harmonious relationship with nature,
  • The urgent and historical opportunity to gather around Earth Rights* as a framework to restore the relationship between humans and nature.

We commit ourselves to living in harmony with nature, each other and ourselves, as well as to the co-creation of a common Earth Rights culture.

We declare to be the change we want to see in the world through:

  • Learning to govern ourselves in alignment with the Laws of Nature;
  • Listening to and speaking for Nature;
  • Connecting and cooperating across borders;
  • Healing past wounds, individually and collectively, in order to move forward;
  • Standing up and taking action for Earth Rights with love.

Today we call on all peoples, organizations and governments to join us in this great undertaking and take adequate measures. We call on the United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth for the wellbeing of our Earth Community and future generations, and in honor of our common home.


* Earth Rights include the rights of all of our planet’s ecosystems and all of its inhabitants. We envision Earth Rights as working in harmony with, reinforcing and securing all other rights of peoples and species.

Say yes to Rights of Nature
Help us reach a million signatures at

”Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.”

from the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth


April 21-22, 2017



Place is important. 100 years ago the Sigtuna Foundation was built with the aim to inspire human thought and reflection. Society has changed in many ways since then, but the ambition is still the same: to offer an open space for people with different backgrounds, traditions and viewpoints to meet, interact and learn from one another in atmosphere of mutual respect. A better place for discussing the relationship between humans and nature is hard to find. Visit Sigtuna Foundation


FRIDAY April 21

9.00 Coffee and registration

10.00 Welcome and introduction

Nature´s rights in law – processes and practice

Rights of Nature – Mari Margil, CELDF
At a time of unprecedented species extinction, ecosystem collapse, and climate change, there is a growing understanding that conventional environmental legal frameworks are inadequate to protect nature. A global movement is growing to advance fundamental change in the relationship between humankind and the natural world, by eliminating the key barriers to environmental protection and sustainability, and placing the highest legal protections on nature through the recognition of rights.

The emergence of ecocide law to protect our common home – Femke Wijdekop, End Ecocide on Earth
Ecocide law aims to make the worst kind of violence against nature an international crime. It recognizes that our planetary boundaries are the ‘ultimate court of appeal’ and that we need to harmonize our human laws with nature’s laws. At this moment, our human laws are completely out of sync with nature’s laws and at the root of this lies the misperception that humans own nature and are separate from it.

Natures rights in a Swedish context – possibilities and limitations?
Reflections by Peter Westman (WWF Sweden), Jan Terstad (Naturskyddföreningen) and Gunilla Högberg Björk (GBH Miljörätt) together with Mari Margil and Femke Wijdekop. Moderator: Pella Thiel, Lodyn

12.15 LUNCH

13.30 Outdoor exercise: What would a society that acknowledges Earth Rights look like? 

15.00 Coffee

15.30 Parallell workshops:                        

  • Rights of Nature as a tool to protect nature locally – STORA SALEN
  • Law and Ecological awakening – FRAMTIDEN
  • Environmental and social justice – KARAKTÄREN
  • Art for the rights of Nature – TACKSAMHETEN

17.30 Conclusion and check-out

18.30 DINNER

20.30 Evening programme:
The fisherman and his wife – A theatre performance about the Baltic Sea with the artist group “Långsjö teater”. Actors: Maria Magdolna Beky Winnerstam, Jonatan Ed, Annika Lykta and David Carmel.

21.00 ”Red Elk” – Film presentation (approx 20 minutes). Film-maker Björn-Ola Lind presents the background of his movie “Red Elk”, based on animistic mythology. Later there is a possibility to see the whole film (30 minutes).


from 7.00 BREAKFAST

8.30 Celebration of International Day of Mother Earth

The worldview reflected in Rights of Nature

9.00 Earth Jurisprudence: a guide to a healthy Earth community – Cormac Cullinan
The Rights of Nature is not just a new set of laws. It is grounded in a comprehensive philosophy of law called Earth Jurisprudence. Today´s governance systems are designed to perpetuate human domination of Nature. Earth Jurisprudence, on the contrary, seeks to foster mutually beneficial relationships between humans and the other members of the Earth community. This is not only crucial to end the ongoing destruction of Nature, but also have deep existential and spiritual implications for human self-understanding.

9.30 Sumak Kawsay – A way of living in harmony within communities and with nature – Patricia Gualinga
Sumak Kawsay is a cosmovision fundamental for indigenous cultures for thousands of years, that recently has influenced social movements. Ideas derived from this way of relating to life have been incorporated into Ecuadorean and Bolivian legal frameworks. Sumak Kawsay recognizes a need of cooperation for collective wellbeing, social equality and co-existence with our living, breathing environment. It describes a form of development where social, cultural, environmental and economic issues work together in balance, not separately nor hierarchically. Sarayaku has become recognized worldwide for their resistance against oil extraction in their ancestral territory as they have repeatedly defended their territory in international courts – and won!

Rights of nature as a spearhead for an Earth-centered worldview
Reflections by Cormac Cullinan, Patricia Gualinga, Alf Linderman (Sigtunastiftelsen), Åsa Simma (Giron Sámi Teáhter) Marie Persson (Sami Parliament), Martin Hultman (Linköping University). Moderator: Niklas Högberg, Lodyn.

10.30 Coffee

11.00 Parallell workshops:

  • Earth rights and the role of native spiritual traditions – STORA SALEN
  • The International tribunal for Natures rights – FRAMTIDEN
  • Co-Creating a new Earth Rights Movement from the Inside Out – a truth and reconciliation process – TACKSAMHETEN
  • The Nature of learning – Humanity and the More-than-Human world in Education – KARAKTÄREN

12.30 LUNCH

13.30 Open space: How can we work for Earth Rights in the transition to sustainability? 

15.00 Healing historical wounds and co-creating a future in harmony with Mother Earth. Concluding remarks by indigenous representatives.

15.20 Conclusion, reflection and integration

16.00 Conference ends. Coffee is served in the dining room.


Advancing the Rights of Nature

This workshop with Mari Margil from Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) will provide a practical examination of the Rights of Nature – what it is; why and how it is advancing around the world; and strategies for advancing it at the local and national level in Sweden and other countries. This will include discussion on how existing environmental laws legalize the use and exploitation of nature, and how these frameworks are unable to protect nature.

Art for the Rights of Nature

To open up for the solidarity with all living beings, we need to open to a sensory, creative exploration of ourselves and the world. A mindful, intuitive workshop, where we explore our inner sense of music and rhythm, and practise interbeing. How can we create sounds, noise and gestures into a co-creative piece? How can we listen to our true selves and to the group at the same time? An adventure beyond words with Peder Karlsson and Annika Lykta.

Ecological Rights and Environmental Justice

Humans, as part of nature, share the rights of nature. We live together in interconnected and interdependent ways. This workshop will reflect on how rights of nature relate to human rights and environmental justice. The demands that human societies place on nature may imply an unequal distribution of rights in some cases. Moreover, rights that are beneficial to certain societies may or may not be beneficial for other societies or lives. By extension, rights for nature must entail different kinds of rights for different communities. How might rights of nature support non-exploitative, mutually nurturing relationships between people? This workshop includes a conversation between Stefania Barca, Martin Hultman, Cormac Cullinan and Marie Persson moderated by Marco Armiero, director of Environmental Humanities Laboratory at KTH.

Law & Ecological Awakening

This workshop explores ecocide law as an expression and agent of ecological awakening. Law influences our values and steers our behaviour; ecocide law will steer our behaviour towards ecological citizenship. Making ecocide an international crime could help humans reconnect to nature by the values they prioritize: people and planet above profit. Lawyer Femke Wijdekop explores connections between the promotion of Ecocide law and alignment of intellect, body and heart to act from a place of connection to Earth. Niklas Högberg, Lodyn, will guide the participants through a process of reconnecting to ourselves, each other and the planet.


The International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature

Cormac Cullinan discusses how the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is using the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature to pioneer and experiment with alternative international and regional governance structures, and to provide a space for sharing experience about the damage done to nature. Next Tribunal is planned in Bonn, november 2017 in adjunction with COP 23.


Co-Creating a New Earth Rights Movement from the Inside Out - A truth and reconciliation process in every heart

To be an earth rights activist means to be a carrier of a new paradigm, a new story in which rights of nature is transformed from one of many ideas into shaping the context for our common future. This is a journey of deep re-learning that requires courage – the courage to face yourself, others, the world and nature in new ways. The courage to be, feel, think and act from the inside out. This journey can be viewed as a truth and reconciliation process in every heart, aimed at restoring balance in all our relationships. We will take part in an extraordinary testimony by the Giron Sámi Teáhter: Their own truth and reconciliation commission based on stories by the Sámi people who seek to recover after ages of colonization and oppression. In the workshop, indigenous rights are interweaved with Earth rights as well as the rights of all people to live in peace and balance with nature. We will explore what it means to empower ourselves and each other in our own healing journeys, as parts of a global eco-social movement connected by a common vision: The ancient and revolutionary idea of Earth rights. A focus of the workshop is the co-creation of a short Earth Rights Declaration by the participants. With Åsa Simma, CEO of Giron Sámi Teáhter, Marie Persson, Sámi activist and Niklas Högberg, Lodyn.

Earth rights and the role of native spiritual traditions

Indigenous and traditional cosmovisions have been a very important inspiration for the Rights of Nature movement from the start. The sacredness and interconnectedness of all life is the foundation whereupon indigenous cultures are built. Dominant paradigms of colonization and modernization through history and in present times have caused transformations and even loss of many spiritual traditions. In this sense decolonization of indigenous knowledge and spirituality become an important challenge. This workshop is a dialogue between Patricia Gualinga from the Sarayaku, an indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and Henrik Hallgren, practitioner of Forn Sidr – the Scandinavian heathen tradition. The dialogue is expressed partly as a shared ceremony and partly as a verbal dialogue where all participants will be invited to share reflections.

The Nature of learning - Humanity and the More-than-Human world in Education

How do we embed questions of humanity and nature in our learning? How do we address the overarching crucial concepts and values that shape how we see our roles as humans? In this workshop we will discuss the importance of making questions on the relationship between humanity and nature a priority in education about/for sustainability. Facilitated by Isak Stoddard and Malin Östman, together we will explore possibilities and challenges for educators and students, drawing on experiences and pedagogical practice from the transdisciplinary, collaborative and student-centred courses at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS) at Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Programme is under construction. Please check back again and like us on Facebook for updates!



Mari Margil is the Associate Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), where she leads the organization’s International Center for the Rights of Nature. CELDF is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and assisted in drafting the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth. Margil assisted Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly to draft Rights of Nature constitutional provisions, and is working in Nepal, India, Australia, and other countries to advance Rights of Nature frameworks. In 2016, Margil assisted members of the Ho-Chunk Nation in the United States to draft the first tribal constitutional amendment on the Rights of Nature, and advised members of the Green Party of England and Wales in developing their new party platform on the Rights of Nature.


Patricia Gualinga is the international representative for the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, Ecuadorian Amazon. Patricia has been participating in various international activities on the Rights of Nature sharing the knowledge and experience of her community and she has a long experience of environmental activism. Sarayaku is a rainforest community of 1200 Kichwa-speaking people famous for their successful efforts fighting back against the oil industry’s influence in their native land. Sarayaku has been able to resist the threats from the oil industry thanks to the collective efforts of the community.


Isak Stoddard is based at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS) at the University of Uppsala and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He works on developing transformative and transdisciplinary approaches to higher education, research as a response to the global environmental and social challenges of our times. Isak is also the coordinator of a new 10-year research-initiative on climate change leadership, centered around a series of visiting professorships at Uppsala University made possible by a donation from Zennström Philanthropies. Isak has an educational background in engineering physics, systems technology and energy systems. He enjoys frequent adventures to the Scandinavian mountains for skiing, wandering and climbing.


Niklas Högberg is a practitioner of ecopedagogy, transformative leadership and inner transition since 30 years. Early on he got involved with strategic and innovative organizations to implement social change to end hunger and poverty. Through UN-related initiatives, he carried out programs and projects to empower social sustainability based on people-centered and participatory approaches, both in South and North. During the last ten years, he has integrated his experiences of empowering sustainable change based on inner leadership, modern science, transformational activism as well as indigenous wisdom. He was part of pioneering the inner transition movement in Sweden through the work of Pachamama Alliance, including rights of nature.


Associate professor Martin Hultman works as lecturer at Linköping and Gothenburg University. He is engaged in local politics organising events around ecotourism, popular science and transition. As an interdisciplinary scholar he is the co-ordinator of Environmental Posthumanities Network, initiator of SweMineTechNet and organiser of two international conference on ecopreneurship and climate denialism respectively. His publications include the books Discourses of Global Climate Change and Den inställda omställningen. Hultmans current research revolves around issues such as posthumanities ethics, ecofeminism, environmental utopias, climate change denial and ecopreneurship historically as well as contemporary. At the moment he is finishing a new book project called Ecological Masculinities.


Åsa Simma was born into a nomadic reindeer herding family, migrating between north Sweden and Norway depending on the season. She was taught the traditional Sami singing called “yoik”, during that time yoiks was forbidden. She was part of the movement to diminish the yoiking ban. She left for Denmark where she took an actors education. Åsa Simma has been very active in the global indigenous peoples movements. She has toured among Australian Aboriginals, lived with Inuits from Greeenland and North American Indians. She has worked as a dramaturgist and script developer at the International Sami Film Institute. Today she is the CEO of Giron Sámi Teáhter.


Emilia Rekestad is one of the co-facilitators of the conference. She generally acts within a diverse set of fields found in the wide array of sustainable solutions. Emilia works as a course- and projectcoordinator mainly within the Swedish Association of Permaculture and in Transition Sweden. Exploring co-creation and forms of participatory leadership, in the benefit of all, is central to her work. With a degree in biology with focus on gardening and health, Emilia has a deep interest in how landscapes can be diversified and truly regenerative – for both people and planet. She is a council member of the European Network ECOLISE which unites community-led initiatives for sustainability across Europe.


Femke Wijdekop works as a Senior Expert in environmental justice for the program ‘Defending Environmental Defenders’ at IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands and is an associate of the Institute for Environmental Security in The Hague. Previously, she worked as a researcher in the fields of international and constitutional law at the University of Amsterdam. For the past several years, she has been working with End Ecocide in Europe and Polly Higgins to make ecocide the fifth crime against peace. Her published writings have focused on such issues as the emerging ecocentrism in law and the Urgenda climate case, in which she is a co-litigant. She holds a Masters of Law degree from the Free University Amsterdam.


Jan Terstad heads the Biodiversity and Forest Department at Swedish Society of Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen). He has a long experience working with nature conservation issues at the Government Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and other places.


Henrik Hallgren is the founder of Lodyn, a Swedish non-governmental organization engaged in Ecopsychology, Nature awareness and Nature’s rights activism. He is teaching courses, lectures and write books, articles and reports in these topics. In 2016 he was part of the interactive dialogue of the UN General Assembly on Harmony with Nature. He is a ceremonial leader in the Scandinavian heathen tradition called Forn Sed, and has an academic background in archaeology and social anthropology.


Malin Östman has worked at CEMUS since 2005 in different capacities. Currently she also works for the Faculty of Science and Technology at Uppsala university with educational development. 2013 Malin won Uppsala University´s pedagogical price for Active Student Participation. Right now her primary focus is on how to encourage students and the university at large to take on the current sustainability challenges as well as being an active participant in society.


Gunilla Högberg Björck is a lawyer and single owner of the law firm GBH Miljörätt, mainly working as legal representative for environmental NGOs and private citizens in matters of environmental law. Gunilla has worked with many different cases regarding protection of nature, issues of legal standing and access to justice. She represented the NGO Djurgården-Lilla Värtans Miljöskyddsförening before the EU court in case C-263/08 (a case resulting in changes in the Swedish Environmental Code concerning legal standing for environmental NGOs). Gunilla often teaches environmental law.


Långsjö teater is a touring theatre company based in Gnesta, Sweden. Co-creative processes, openness and curiosity are the core qualities of the company´s work. Långsjö teater is known for working close to interdisciplinary sustainability research and also for having a longer period of time of own research before each production. The artistic language of the Company is complex embodying and experimenting with various disciplines as storytelling, clown and mask, live music, kathakali and other body work. The performances often have an improvisational and interactive part where each audience of each performance has the chance to receive a unique experience.


Stefania Barca is a senior researcher at Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra, where she is co-coordinator of the research group on ‘Social policies, labor and inequalities’ and of the PhD program ‘Democracy in the 21st century’. Her latest publication: Enclosing Water Nature and Political Economy in a Mediterranean Valley, has been awarded the Turku Prize for best book in European environmental history. Her new research project deals with industrial hazards and the relationships between labor and the environment in a transnational perspective. She has been recently elected vice-president of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH).


Cormac Cullinan is based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is a director of the South African environmental law firm, Cullinan & Associates Inc, and Chief Executive Officer of EnAct International, an environmental governance consultancy. A former anti-apartheid activist, and a London-based commercial lawyer, he has practised, taught and written about environmental law and policy since 1992, and has worked in more than 20 countries. In the academic field he has lectured and written widely on governance issues related to human interactions with the environment and is notable for authoring a book, Wild Law. Cormac led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. His work in pioneering a legal philosophy that restores an ecological perspective to governance systems (Earth jurisprudence) is internationally recognised.


Marie Persson Njajta is a member of the Sami Parliament and human rights activist dedicated to indigenous rights and childrens rights. She has founded the Network Stop the mine in Rönnbäck, fighting the last 8 years against a nickel mine planned on her ancestral lands in the Ume river delta. Marie is often speaking on the exploitation and colonisation of Sapmi.


Peder Karlsson is the cultural coordinator of the conference. He graduated in 1989 from The Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, with a post-graduate Diploma in vocal ensemble performance.  He was a member of the internationally renowned Swedish a cappella group The Real Group 1984-2010, with whom he made 16 CDs and over 2000 concerts all over the world. Peder is Honorary Professor at Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus and Aalborg, Denmark, where he teaches artistic leadership in rhythmic choir music since 2015. He has co-created the “Organic Choirs” concept, which is based on rotated leadership and singer-centered creative processes. He is a founding member of European Voices Association and a part of the activism network End Ecocide Sweden.


Marco Armiero is Director of the Environmental Humanities Laboratory at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is also Associate Professor of Environmental History. He is the author of A Rugged Nation. Mountains and the Making of Modern Italy (2011) and co-editor of A History of Environmentalism. Local Struggles, Global Histories (2014), and Nature and History in Modern Italy (2010). He is also a senior editor of Capitalism Nature Socialism and Environmental Humanities.


Alf Linderman is associate professor of sociology of religion and executive director at the Sigtuna Foundation. In his research he has primarily focused on the relation between religion, media, politics and society, but he has also been involved in several research projects on climate change and the human capacity for innovation and adaptation.


Ecologist by training, changemaker and cultural creative by trade, Pella Thiel has a diverse experience as a nature interpreter and environmental activist. She has co-founded End Ecocide Sweden and Transition Network Sweden and writes, speaks and teaches on issues related to transition, ecopsychology and human relationships with nature. Pella is also a member of UN Harmony with Nature Knowledge Initiative and mostly likes practising permaculture on her family farm in Stockholm archipelago.


Björnola Lind is an artist educated at Art high school in Stockholm. He is born in northern Sweden and was adopted as an adult by Bundjalung people in Australia, from whom he was taught sacred playing technics on Yidaki. In several projects he has been working with musicians and artists from different indigenous cultures in a zone between traditional knowledge and site specific performance. The last ten years he has also been making films based on Saami mythology for Swedish television. The films are poetic documentaries portraying animals, but also the intimate relation between the Saami people, their mythological stories and the landscape.


2 + 5 =


“A true “right of the environment” does exist.”

Pope Francis to the UN, September, 2015