Reading headlines on the environment can be terrifying.
In November, a New York Times headline stated, “Great Barrier Reef Hit by Worst Coral Die-Off on Record, Scientists Say.” In December, USA Today reported “Giraffes face ‘silent extinction’ as population shrinks nearly 40%.” And in January, the Washington Post reported that “US scientists officially declare 2016 the hottest year on record. That makes three in a row.”
Environmental degradation is advancing around the world. The United Nations has warned that we are heading toward “major planetary catastrophe.” With this there is a growing recognition of the need for fundamental change in how we, humankind, live on planet.
More than forty years after the passage of the major federal environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act — laws which are now mirrored around the world — the earth’s species, waterways, oceans, coral reefs, forests, and other ecosystems are rapidly declining.
These environmental laws, rather than protecting the rights of the environment to exist and thrive, instead regulate its use and exploitation. Thus, environmental laws largely legalize harm — including fracking, mountaintop removal mining, and pipelines — rather than protect against it.
These laws are premised on nature being considered property under the law, and therefore, as right-less. Much like indigenous peoples, slaves, and women have been considered right-less under the law — unable to defend their own basic rights to life and well-being — so today do environmental laws treat nature.
A movement is building to advance a different paradigm, one which is recognizing the inherent rights of nature.
Rights of nature laws have now been passed in more than three dozen communities in the United States, as well as codified in Ecuador’s Constitution. These laws recognize the inalienable rights of nature — or Pacha Mama as is …read more