Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
Traditionally, environmental laws have been written to manage how we use nature. However, the rapid degradation of nature driven by human activity is forcing indigenous leaders and activists to push for nature having rights that are enshrined in law.
We saw an example of this last year when Ohio activists pushed for Lake Erie to have a bill of rights, only for their efforts to be roadblocked by the Chamber of Commerce. Yet this approach is gaining momentum and you shouldn’t be surprised to see it proposed throughout the United States and expanded in the rest of the world.
“For many indigenous advocates of rights of nature, ecosystems are both sacred in their own right and inseparable from human societies. “I am the river and the river is me,” a Māori saying goes—an injury to the river is an injury to all. Rights of nature enshrine this principle as law. This ethical viewpoint isn’t so different from that of some radical environmentalists, who argue ecosystems and other organisms—be it due to their interconnectedness with sentient animals (including humans), their perceived consciousness or simply the fact they exist and are alive—have a moral claim to their lives and livelihoods. But for the hard-nosed human supremacists out there, there’s a selfish argument, too: The legal framework of rights offers more protection than typical regulations, and if we don’t protect these ecosystems, plenty of humans will suffer.”
How This Works:As Ensia explained,Rights of Nature is a growing international movement that recognizes species and ecosystems not simply as resources for humans to use, but as living entities with rights of their own.
With Rights of Nature, communities work together outside of the regulatory system to establish legal rights.
Additionally, Rights of Nature laws are enforced differently than other environmental protections. When a community bill of rights is adopted into law, it designates a guardian to enforce the rights of an ecosystem by filing lawsuits on behalf of the ecosystem.
In many instances, these custodians are indigenous tribes as the Rights of Nature is largely based on indigenous approaches to land management.
Where It’s Already Happening: As Deutsche Welle reported it was in this spirit that Ecuador became the first country to enshrine the rights of nature — personified as Pachamama, the Andean earth goddess — in its constitution, in 2008. Bolivia and Uganda have since enshrined the rights of nature in their constitutions, and an amendment was recently proposed for Sweden to do the same. Additionally, the Ganges and Yamuna rivers now have legal personhood, as do each of Bangladesh’s hundreds of rivers.
In the United States, similar protections have been proposed for the Ohio River,Tamaqah Borough, PA, and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, a Native American nation in Minnesota, codified the rights of manoomin, or wild rice, to “flourish, regenerate, and evolve.”
Why This Matters: Giving ecosystems, bodies of water, and natural places legal rights is shaping up to be the next frontier in conservation. Conservative critics have scoffed at the idea of giving rights to nature, yet in the United States corporations and even ships have rights in the legal system–so why not nature (ya know, the thing that sustains all life on Earth)?
This week, just in time for Thanksgiving, we talk with Adam Kolton, the Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Arctic Indigenous Communities, and conserving Alaskan wilderness. Watch the entire interview. Here are a few highlights: On the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: “This is the area where hundreds of […]
This week we had the pleasure of sitting with Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, a title he’s held since October 2019. We asked the minister about how Indonesia is balancing the precarious equation of conserving its rich biodiversity while addressing the duel climate and COVID crises. Now that […]
Sure he may perennially be one of People Magazine’s sexiest men alive (well Michael B. Jordon won this year), but now HGTV’s Jonathan Scott is on a real “Power Trip.” On Monday he premiered on PBS a new documentary he wrote and directed about how solar energy development is being stifled by what he calls […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.