If corporations are people now, why can’t rivers be?
Under a landmark agreement, signed in New Zealand earlier this summer, the Whanganui River has become a legal entity with a legal voice.
The agreement is the result of over a hundred years of advocacy by the Whanganui iwi, an indigenous community with a long history of reliance on the river and its bountiful natural resources.
The Whanganui, the third longest river in New Zealand, will be recognized as a person under the law “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests,” Christopher Finlayson, a spokesperson for the Minister of Treaty Negotiations, told the New Zealand Herald.
This isn’t the first time Nature has been given legal Rights
In 2008, Ecuador became the first nation in the world to recognize the legal rights of its mountains, rivers, and land.
Frustrated by the exploitation of the Amazon and the Andes by multinational mining and oil corporations, delegates in Ecuador turned to the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to help rewrite the country’s constitution. The delegates wanted to provide legal protection for Ecuador’s environment and its resources. The Legal Defense Fund helped them include a “Rights of Nature” framework in their constitution that allows people to sue on behalf of an ecosystem.
In 2011, the new law got its first test. A suit was brought on against the Provincial Government of Loja, on behalf of the Vilcabama River in Ecuador.
The local Loja government had allowed a road that abutted the river to be widened, which forced rocks and debris into the watershed and caused large floods that affected communities living on its banks.
As a result of the “rights of nature” provisions in Ecuador’s constitution, the judge decided in favor of the river. The municipality of Loja was forced to halt the project and rehabilitate the area.
Ecuador’s new constitution has been an inspiration to communities and governments all over the world who want greater protections for their local resources. Ironic thing is Ecuador got the idea from a small town in Pennsylvania that wrote the first Rights of Nature law. It started here by a handful of local citizens who just felt it was the right thing to do and did it. Just like a handful of locals who 250 years ago wrote the Declaration of Independence because they believed it was the right thing to do and did it.
What does this mean to you and me? It means Everything.
We have Rights, Nature has Rights and those Rights get violated all the time. How do you remedy the infringements on our rights, our rights to clean water and the rights of nature and living organism of which we are an integral part and can not live without?
First, there has to be a law that duly ordains and establishes those rights as a legal premise on which we can apply a remedy when there is an infringement or violation. By giving Nature the legal status as our Benefactor we give ourselves legal standing as the beneficiary. All the laws of Nature which we are duty bound to respect and honor take precedence over any man-made laws that would exercise a fictitious right as a right to infringe and violate. Now water has rights, Nature has Rights and we are obligated to protect and preserve those Rights and in so doing protect and preserve our rights. That is the win-win situation.
Recognizing Nature as a legal entity with a voice and Rights who exists only to provide all that is necessary for us to thrive and prosper is the final critical connection to insuring our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Feel the love?
Does this feel anything like the feeling you get when Monsanto, Dow, Federal Reserves, IMF, Wall street, Frackers, or oil companies speak? Oh no, not even close.