The Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift: Granting Rights to Mother Nature
If you mention the concept of rights of nature, people are either all for it, because it sounds like a good idea, or else they think it’s about giving rights to bugs. While it is not a complicated topic, it does have depth and it is not about empowering insects. Simply put, rights of nature is the recognition that trees, oceans, animals, and mountains have rights just as human beings have rights.
In legal terms, it is giving nature standing — the right to be represented in court. For example, someone could sue BP on behalf of the ecosystem for degrading the gulf coast environment due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In moral terms, it is about respecting the world we live in — protecting our biodiversity, lands, and oceans instead of harming or destroying the planet. The bottom line is that nature is no longer viewed as “property” but becomes a rights-bearing entity.
The concept of rights of nature has been steadily gaining ground since Ecuador wrote a new constitution in 2008 which granted inalienable rights to nature. It was the first country to do so. It gives nature the “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution” and mandates that the government take “precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.” Last month Bolivia passed an even more far-reaching right into its constitution, granting all nature equal rights to humans. And in the U.S., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has passed a rights of nature ordinance as a response to halt hydrofracking.
The Bolivian government has also spearheaded a movement within the United Nations to pass a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. Partnered with the existing Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the two declarations put people and the planet ahead of profit.
Stay tuned. Like-minded organizations are joining the recently created Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, other countries and cities are considering rights of nature provisions, and people are opening their eyes to something that is not only positive and just, but long overdue.