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The Rights Of Nature

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/10/10/rights-nature

Can the “civilized”—non-indigenous—branch of humanity step beyond its arrogance and learn from its own past, which it has been trying for several millennia to dismiss? Wahl believes it’s possible for the world to “re-indigenize.” (article)

You bet we can - in our own way. And right now, that way includes legal standing for the natural environment. It is worth reiterating that human beings are part and parcel of the natural environment.

Indigenous beliefs regarding the treatment of the natural world were at heart practical responses to an observed reality - that we cannot exist without a healthy natural world. We are now re-learning this, and our legal system is just a modern equivalent for sacred beliefs and protocols & unwritten laws.

Like all laws, they are only as good as time and circumstance permit, and to be effective, they must be grounded in reality.

I agree totally with another part of this fine article by Robert Koehler:

"This is much bigger than just wanting to punish people for doing something wrong," said Peter Macfadyen, a leader in the struggle to gain legal recognition for the River Frome, as quoted by Reuters. "It’s about trying to change a mindset about the environment in which we live."

Yes - the mindset - we must all become at least passable ecologists - we know how to do this, having lived like this for all of pre-history.

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Much as I sympathize with the sentiments expressed in this article, I do not believe that granting “personhood” to things that do not fit most people’s use of that term accomplishes anything good in and of itself (in the case of corporations and other “creatures of law,” it has in fact done considerable harm). Nor do I see any reason, legal or otherwise, why we need to do so in order to protect ecosystems from capitalism or other forms of exploitation. The approach being taken by https://ecocidelaw.com/ strikes me (and I suspect most other real people) as being much more sensible.

As we struggle to preserve ourselves as a species, we must avoid simplistic thinking. Nature has never been pristine. Even the planet’s geology has never been static. The principal forces driving the planet’s climate regime have changed a number of times since the earth’s initial state as a gas ball. Mass extinctions of life forms have occurred at least 5 times in the geological past. All life forms inescapably transform their environment, simply by engaging in life functions. Science has put to bed the old comforting, but simplistic, notions of a balance of nature or equilibrium.

We cannot completely stop evolution, geological developments, or astronomical events such as an asteroid colliding with our planet. However, we can use science to try to predict the likely consequences of our collective actions to the best of our ability. But even before that, we must first decide what kind of environment, what kind of a planet, we would like to try to preserve, and what kind of quality of life we would like to attain. We must reach political and values-related agreement on our common human fate before we ask (an imperfect) science to try to help us achieve it.

There are no guarantees. All we can ask of ourselves is to exercise due diligence and empathy. But notions of “Rights for Nature” are silly from a scientific point of view.

Humans have no ability to “decide” what parts of the natural world it likes or wants to preserve. Mother Nature makes those “decisions” through her ever evolving response to imbalances created in all of the interconnected and mutually supportive systems of this blue orb in the heavens we call Earth…

The fact, scientifically proven, is that human activity has thrown the Earths systems out of whack. To the point that climate chaos has already begun and mass extinctions are already happening. We humans are very clever, but we will not be exempt from the blow back of having destroyed and are continuing to degrade the ecosystems that we as humans, and all living things depend on for life.

We need to give Nature and all the interconnected ecosystems legal protection to protect their health, vitality, and ability to regenerate. That means we have to change the law to give Nature rights, and for humans to represent ecosystems in a court of law when human activity threatens the health and very existence of of those ecosystems. Our life on Earth literally depends on those ecosystem for clean, healthy, and life giving air, water, soils, oceans, etc.

Many Summits, I think you will enjoy Koehler’s web site to learn more about him (About tab), and read other articles he’s written. This guys heart is in the right place and he expresses it well. Check it out::


Hi Rebel !

I’ve actually emailed Robert several times in the past. Yes - he has a good heart.

There appears to be a lobby against rights for the environment, as there was for tobacco and global warming, CAGW (Catastropic Anthropogenic Global Warming).

Predictable, in the extreme, because it would work.

Greta did not get the Peace Prize - what a lack of imagination !

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Yeah, I personally have experienced the “lobby”. It comes in the form of corporate lawyers backing the status quo against those who fight for the Rights of Nature and our right to community self government.

I think I already mentioned that in court as we fought for our right to our Seed Heritage in a citizens’ initiative to be placed on the ballot for a vote by the people, my cohort farmers and myself were declared to be domestic terrorists. I wear that moniker as a badge of courage for directly confronting this corrupt system of law that protects corporate “personhood” and corporate destruction of the environment for their profit.

Fighting for the Rights of Nature is not for the faint of heart, just like old age…

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