Despite our obsession with the slaughter and captivity of whales and dolphins, there are some growing bright spots on the horizon! Here at Moonlight Mesa Associates we’ve agreed to stop obsessing about captive whales and focus on the bigger picture. Plenty of other people are focusing on whales and dolphins. The four of us aren’t going to be missed. The Rights of Nature movement needs support and obsessing over too.
Essentially, the idea of the Rights of Nature arose in the “western” world around 1972, although indigenous citizens in many countries have pretty much always recognized and respected the rights of nature. However, in 1989 Professor Roderick Nash published the Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics which really began the ball slowly rolling.
The fact is, and it’s a happy fact, the Rights of Nature is being increasingly recognized worldwide. Just this past week, Sweden introduced a Rights of Nature Constitutional Amendment in their parliament.
Parliament member Le Moine succinctly made it clear when he said, “The underlying value in our society is that we are the dominators of this world and Nature is just a resource for us to use. Economic growth has been the real goal, not a healthy environment. I’m tired of this era, where our arrogant worldview has driven us far beyond the planetary boundaries. Now, when we’re in the beginning of an ecological and climate collapse, I hope we can re-think our relationship with Nature. And for me, it starts with admitting that Nature has rights.”
Mari Margil of CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) stated: “We need to quickly make a fundamental shift in our relationship with the natural world. Advancing the Rights of Nature in Sweden’s constitution is an important step forward.”
These exact words could/should have been said in the United States Congress, the British Parliament, and any number of countries. Unfortunately, it will likely be decades before words of this kind are uttered in the U.S. Congress, but there’s always hope!
Sweden will be joining Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, India, New Zealand and a host of other countries who have come to their senses and realized that some things (nature) are just more important than amassing untold amounts of money and multiple private estates.
Citizens of the United States are taking action even if the federal government here isn’t. I think I already mentioned about the citizens in Lincoln County, Oregon, who adopted a first-in-nation ban of aerial pesticide spraying. Despite a staggering campaign war chest of $300,000 raised by timber and chemical corporations, Lincoln County fought back with $16,000 and won their measure.
Pennsylvania is introducing a constitutional amendment called the “local Self-Government Amendment” which places the rights of people over the interests of private corporations and empowers communities to heighten state protections for civil, human, and ecosystem rights. This is in an effort to protect themselves from environmental and personal harm. Pittsburgh has already waded into this swamp and defended themselves against sludge, fracking, and a host of harmful corporate projects.
In Florida laws are being proposed in each county through the citizens’ ballot initiative process. In addition to protecting the Rights of Nature, the laws would recognize rights of local residents to a healthy environment and clean water.
Toledo, Ohio, however, passed a ballot initiative that gave Lake Erie and those who rely on the lake’s ecosystem a bill of rights. The intent is to protect and preserve “the ecosystem so that the life that depends on it – humans included – can have access to safe, fresh drinking water.” This certainly seems like a reasonable initiative, yet big business (in this case the Farm Bureau) had a stop put to this. The State of Iowa is supporting the farmers in a lawsuit against the city. Toledoans for Safer Water were told, by a judge no less, that they “cannot defend the voter-passed initiative in a lawsuit brought by a factory farm against the city over the initiative.”
Gig Harbor, Washington, formed a movement, Legal Rights for the Salish Sea, to help protect endangered orcas and the Salish Sea.
Overall, small movements in this country are arising. Many have the backing and assistance of CELDF and are becoming victorious. Check CELDF out on the web, please!
For a full account of the timeline of Rights of Nature, visit https://celdf.org/advancing-community-rights/rights-of-nature/rights-nature-timeline/.
I can also recommend The Rights of Nature, by David R. Boyd. This is an excellent book and clearly explains what this movement entails and is all about.
Basically, we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to do much more than fret about the beloved Southern Resident Pod and the Humpbacks dying around the globe. The planet itself is at stake. And yes, small efforts add up!
What can YOU do to help this movement? Stay tuned. We’re going to get to that.