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The Rights of Nature Movement
In the current issue of Yes! magazine, there is a article called Living Ecologically is Illegal.
This article quite clearly shows that some of the things we might want to do to protect Nature from civilized man are actually illegal.
Just ask the city of Toledo, Ohio, where citizens voted in 2019 to protect their drinking water by granting Lake Erie the right to exist, thrive, and flourish, making pollution of the lake illegal. A corporation, Drewes Farm, sued the city and won when a federal court struck down the local law, citing the corporation’s constitutional rights. Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, corporations can sue anyone who deprives them of “life, liberty, or property”—rights that Nature does not share….
The fundamental laws in the U.S., and indeed most countries, ignore the laws of Nature and reduce the living, breathing entity into “property,” a mere possession of the privileged. And as long as the law remains this way, the best laid ecological plans are always under threat of being undermined by a corporation that wants to pump its poison emissions or toxic waste into the middle of your unwilling Eden.
Fortunately, there is now the Rights of Nature movement, which is changing the foundation of Western law to recognize Nature as an entity that should have its own recognition and rights, simply by virtue of the fact that she exits. This would place Nature at the center of our collective decision-making processes, rather than dollars.
We completely agree with this. It starts with each of us as individuals putting Nature at the center of our decision-making, and learning enough about Nature to know what Nature needs of us.
Take a look at the Rights of Nature website. This is a very important concept.
Rights of Nature is the recognition and honoring that Nature has rights. It is the recognition that our ecosystems – including trees, oceans, animals, mountains – have rights just as human beings have rights. Rights of Nature is about balancing what is good for human beings against what is good for other species, what is good for the planet as a world. It is the holistic recognition that all life, all ecosystems on our planet are deeply intertwined.
Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.
And we – the people – have the legal authority and responsibility to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the injured party, with its own legal standing rights, in cases alleging rights violations.
For indigenous cultures around the world recognizing rights of nature is simply what is so and consistent with their traditions of living in harmony with nature. All life, including human life, are deeply connected. Decisions and values are based on what is good for the whole.
Nonetheless, for millennia legal systems around the world have treated land and nature as “property”. Laws and contracts are written to protect the property rights of individuals, corporations and other legal entities. As such environmental protection laws actually legalize environmental harm by regulating how much pollution or destruction of nature can occur within the law. Under such law, nature and all of its non-human elements have no standing.
By recognizing rights of nature in its constitution, Ecuador – and a growing number of communities in the United States – are basing their environmental protection systems on the premise that nature has inalienable rights, just as humans do. This premise is a radical but natural departure from the assumption that nature is property under the law.