Governments at all levels are discussing new Rights of Nature laws, from the United Nations (e.g., the Harmony with Nature Initiative) to national governments (e.g., Chile) to states/regional governments (e.g., Oaxaca, Mexico) to Indigenous and community governments (e.g., the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit and Paris, France).
What is Rights of Nature?
INSPIRED BY THE ORIGINAL INDIGENOUS WORLDVIEW, A GLOBAL MOVEMENT IS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY TO RECOGNIZE THAT NATURE IS NOT MERE PROPERTY, BUT INSTEAD HAS INHERENT RIGHTS, SUCH AS A FOREST’S RIGHT TO HEALTH OR A RIVER’S RIGHT TO FLOW. ECUADOR FIRST MADE HISTORY BY RECOGNIZING THE RIGHTS OF NATURE IN ITS CONSTITUTION ONLY 12 YEARS AGO.
Now, Rights of Nature is recognized in at least 12 countries, including Canada, Colombia, Ecuador Bangladesh, Mexico, and even the United States (where several Tribal Nations and local communities have recognized Nature’s inherent rights). Rights of Nature is a new, Earth-centered approach for our legal system.
The Rights of Nature movement is growing at breakneck speed, including through the following trends:
Political groups are beginning to support Rights of Nature (e.g., European Parliament members and the DNC Climate Council recommendations (USA)).
Landmark Court Rulings
Courts are making landmark Rights of Nature Rulings (e.g., in Colombia).
Law schools are beginning to teach courses on ecocentric law, including Rights of Nature, in the United States and internationally (e.g., Barry Law, Vermont Law).
Dozens of environmental organizations are joining the Rights of Nature movement in support.
A growing number of funders are interested in supporting the Rights of Nature as a solution to the environmental crisis that we have thus far been unable to solve.
Now that the movement is firmly established, we can help create a more well-funded & effective global effort to secure the Rights of Nature throughout the world.
Despite the passage of thousands of environmental laws in recent decades, Nature’s health continues to decline due to biodiversity loss, deforestation, the destruction of rivers and watersheds, climate change impacts, and other harms. This impacts humans, as well, because we are part of Nature.
The primary cause of these crises is the legal system’s treatment of Nature as mere human property, with only humans and human-made entities possessing even the most basic rights. In turn, our economic system treats Nature as a commodity, encouraging its exploitation to the maximum possible extent for short-term profits. This fundamentally flawed model has led to the inevitable result of the global degradation of Nature.
Current environmental laws fall short because they merely play defense, reducing but never halting or reversing environmental degradation. In the United States, for example, there exist a wide variety of environmental laws—the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, to name a few. These laws, although revolutionary at the time many of them were introduced a half century ago, have failed to halt the climate crisis and other ecological devastation. They permit resource extraction, waste discharge, habitat degradation, and species extinction at slower but still continuing rates. Their structure, lacking the idea that nature is a rights-bearing entity, renders them unable to stop global environmental decline, let alone reverse it.
The international community is beginning to recognize that current environmental laws are not enough. For example, a 2019 United Nations “mega report” on biodiversity loss called repeatedly—21 separate times—for “transformative change” to safeguard life on Earth3. In 2020, the “Leaders’ Pledge for Nature,” signed by more than 60 Heads of State and governments, similarly concluded that “transformative change is needed.” Rights of Nature and the broader field of “Earth law” provides such transformative change.
For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.
include the following:
of global wildlife populations of the
last 50 years
46% of all trees in human history and 20% of the Amazon
in 50 years
the ocean’s fish
in 50 years
planet’s coral reefs in
the last 30 years, 90% of which may become extinct
by 2050 and all of which
may die off by 2100
the longest rivers no longer flow freely
rise of 6 feet or
more by 2100
species facing extinction due to climate change
The time for bold action is now