Imagine what it would feel like to live in a society that protects Earth’s right to thrive; where Nature is honored and recognized as having rights and is no longer primarily defined as property. In this world, courts would weigh in when conflicts arise between ecosystems and humans. Oceans, animals, mountains, and all of Nature would have rights just as human beings have rights.
This is what is known as Rights of Nature. Rights of Nature recognize the Earth and all its ecosystems as a living being with inalienable rights: to exist, to live free of cruel treatment, to maintain vital processes necessary for the harmonious balance that supports all life.
It can be difficult for many of us to imagine a world where Rights of Nature is widely enacted, and we might wonder how things would be different.
For nearly two decades, San Francisco-based Pachamama Alliance has been focusing on protecting the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, while also inspiring a new future for humanity—one that honors and sustains all life.
Pachamama Alliance was instrumental in the founding of and provides financial support to a group of internationally recognized experts and leaders working for the universal adoption and implementation of Rights of Nature. This group is called the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.
According to the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, this is what it would mean for Nature to have rights:
“Under the current system of law in almost every country, nature is considered to be property, a treatment which confers upon the property owner the right to destroy ecosystems and nature on that property. When we talk about the “rights of nature,” it means recognizing that ecosystems and natural communities are not merely property that can be owned, but are entities that have an independent right to exist and flourish.
Laws recognizing the rights of nature thus change the status of natural communities and ecosystems to being recognized as rights-bearing entities with rights that can be enforced by people, governments, and communities.”
In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in its constitution, and in 2013, Pachamama Alliance supported the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in successfully forming the first Global Tribunal on the Rights of Nature. Recently, in December 2014, the International Rights of Nature Tribunal convened in Lima, Peru. Thirteen judges heard twelve prominent cases evidencing violations to the Rights of Mother Earth and Nature, human rights, and rights of indigenous communities. You can read more about the tribunal here.
While the concept of Rights of Nature might be an unfamiliar one to many of us, shifting the way we perceive and interact with the natural world could expand our circle of responsibility to life outside of human communities and to all of the living beings with whom we share this planet.
To learn more about Rights of Nature, click here.
Mylie is a writer for the San Francisco-based non-profit, the Pachamama Alliance. She connects people to Pachamama Alliance by writing and editing news, events, email campaigns, and also by co-coordinating Pachamama Alliance’s blog. After many years of working in in the field of animal rights, she is happy to now help empower people to create a more sustainable world through Pachamama Alliance.
When she is not working, she enjoys vegan cooking, gardening, hiking, writing, shopping at international markets, and traveling anywhere—especially places brimming with geothermal activity, like Yellowstone National Park and Iceland.