Pachamama Policing in Colombia: Securing the Rights of Nature

Diogenes Eli Casas Samper1

1Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane , AUSTRALIA

Northern policies oriented towards the securitisation of climate change have been widely implemented in the global South where they are often contextually inappropriate, replicate colonial logics, lack suitable or frameworks for policing and enforcement, and reproduce Capitalocentric desires to dominate nature. At the same time, Southern epistemologies of which may provide alternative frameworks for understanding and addressing the causes and effects of environmental degradation are often overlooked. This article seeks to contribute to the de-colonisation of security and policing in the Anthropocene by exploring the unique characteristics of one alternative framework for conceptualising and practicing environmental security and policing in Colombia. This approach is grounded in the concept of ‘Pachamama’ which promulgates the idea that nature has rights. The concept of Pachamama embraces a collectivist notion of a community of all species and ecosystems and presents a critique of mainstream legal traditions that legitimize the exploitation and degradation of the natural world. This model has been successfully implemented in some communities and territories in Colombia, where the Guardia Indígena (Indigenous Guard), an unarmed civilian defence force of women, men, children and elders, has historically enforced the ‘rights of nature’ to protect ecosystems. This model was formally recognised in the Colombian constitution in 1992 and informed the creation of an environmental police force which contributes to protection, conservation and environmental recover efforts through a de-centralised system of control and surveillance, education, and community-level involvement. The article examines how this system operates through a case study which accounts for the work of the Colectivo red de estrategias y conservación de Risaralda (CREC), a civil guard which has prevented the destruction of several protected areas. The case study combines documentary analysis and interviews with key informants to provide insight into the model’s mentalities, institutional and material resources, and technological capabilities. It further considers the relationship between the Pachamama model and more traditional policing models and actors which operate in this context. The example highlights one possibility for reimagining policing and security base on Southern, collectivist understandings of a community that encompasses all species and ecosystems. The article concludes by reflecting on the potential value and applications of the Pachamama concept for improving the governance and delivery of security in other societies that face significant ecological risks associated with climate change yet remain committed to Northern(inspired) policing and environmental governance models.


PhD Candidate Queensland University of Technology (Climate change, in the global South)| Master of Social Science Autonomous University of Querétaro| Political scientist National University of Colombia


Dec 08 2021