RIGHTS OF NATURE
What is Rights of Nature?
Rights of Nature, also known as Earth Rights, is a legal theory that argues that an ecosystem can and should be entitled to legal personhood status and, as such, has the right to defend itself in a court of law against harm.
This legal theory recognizes an ecosystem's right to exist and naturally evolve without human-caused disruption. When a facet of nature, be it a single species or an entire ecosystem, is granted legal rights, a guardian can fight in court on its behalf. This guardian is typically an individual or a group of individuals well versed in the care and management of said facet of nature.
The people of Grant Township were able to use the Rights of Nature legal framework to protect their local watershed and they aren't the only ones. Over the last decade, courts, legislatures, and various bodies of government in several countries have won ecosystem protection by granting rights to nature. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to formally recognize and implement the Rights of Nature and in 2017, New Zealand granted its Whanganui River legal personhood rights. Several cities in the United States are currently attempting to grant rights to nature including Toledo, Ohio, where the city is fighting to uphold a bill of rights for the state’s largest lake, Lake Erie, that it adopted in 2019. The momentum for the Rights of Nature movement is growing and now is the perfect time to get involved.
How can I help?
There are several organizations advocating for Rights of Nature, including the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) and the Earth Law Center. Partnering with one of these organizations is a great way to help secure rights for nature in your community. However, as demonstrated in our film HELLBENT, community organizing is critical to the success of any Rights of Nature campaign. Find like-minded people in your community and work together to give a voice to the voiceless. Here are some resources that can help you get started.
The Rights of Nature 101 - Columbia University’s Climate School
Community Organizing Support - the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
DIY Guide to Community Rights Law-Making - the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund