The Rights of Nature

Asheville Nonprofit Proposed Nature should have Legal Rights

Asheville, NC April 26—
 
Under the current structure of law the natural world (excluding humans) is considered “Property” and so has no inherent rights. Individual people and the collections of people we call Corporations have rights under the law (e.g. the right to freedom of speech) but the rest of nature does not – it is property. This is not the case in some other countries and now organizations in the US are working to advance the Rights of Nature here. Two leading lawyers in this movement, Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil, will be hosting a workshop in Asheville, Saturday May 19th, 1-5pm, in preparation for the launch of Asheville’s Community Bill of Rights which will include the Rights of Nature. 
 
In 2008 Ecuador codified the Rights of Nature into their national constitution followed in 2010 by Bolivia. The Ecuadorian constitution reads, “Nature, or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes. All persons, communities, peoples and nations can call upon public authorities to enforce the rights of nature.” In 2011 in a case brought by two people on behalf of the Vilcabamba River, the court ruled in favor of the river against a government road widening project claimed to be negatively impacting the river’s constitutional right to exist and thrive. 
 
Earlier this month (April 5 2018) the Colombia Supreme Court of Justice declared that the “Columbian Amazon is recognized as an entity, a subject of rights” which include the right to “legal protection, preservation, maintenance and restoration.” This was a the result of a case brought against the Columbian government by 25 youth. Rights of Nature movements are underway in Bolivia, Mexico, India, Nepal, Swedenand New Zealand. 
 
In the US the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org), founded by Thomas Linzey, worked with community groups in Colorado to propose a State constitutional amendment in 2014. In 2016 the Ho-Chunk Nation (Wisconsin) amended their constitution to include the Rights of Nature and in 2018 the Ponca Nation (in Oklahoma) adopted a customary law recognizing the Rights of Nature. Similar movements are gaining ground in Ohio, New Hampshire and Oregon. 
 
The growing Rights of Nature movement is transforming our understanding of the natural world from being property to being rights-bearing and thus in possession of legally enforceable rights. Under US law women, indigenous people and African Americans have been treated as property  and so rights-less. The legal standing of these groups has changed due to the pressure of people-led movements. Mari Margil explains, “The collapse of ecosystems and species, as well as the acceleration of climate change, are clear indications that a fundamental change in the relationship between humankind and the natural world is necessary.  We must secure the highest legal protections for nature through the recognition of rights.”
 
This is the first time Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil have presented in North Carolina. Their workshop will provide an overview of the Rights of Nature movement, an in-depth look at establishing and enforcing these rights in the US and a discussion of the current Asheville Community Bill of Rights that includes the Rights of Nature. The workshop is presented by local nonprofit, Community Roots. Register here https://communityroots.salsalabs.org/rightsofnatureworkshop/index.html or contact GetInvolved@cmroots.com