‘River Rights’ Movement in USA

by Wesley J. Smith

The drive to grant human-style rights to nature is accelerating — with little pushback.

Rivers and glaciers in India, New Zealand, and Colombia have been granted rights. Now activists want that approach in the USA. From a column by Gary Wockner in the environmentalist journal Water Deeply (my emphasis):

These legal-rights approaches to protecting nature in Ecuador coincide with “river rights” movements that are escalating across the world. In the last few months, rivers in New Zealand, India and Colombia have been granted rights equal to that of humans.

In all three countries, certain rivers can now have human legal guardians, and the river can be named as a plaintiff in court, potentially against a polluter or a dam builder . . . 

I believe we need to more heavily invest in a legalized rights of nature approach. We need to bolster and enforce environmental laws whenever possible.

We need to send a strong message to the public that we are not only enforcing existing laws, but we are working to pass new laws that are just, ethical and democratic to entrench the rights of nature and rivers for all the species that depend on them, human and non-human alike, everywhere.

In other words, we reject human exceptionalism. Humans are just another animal in the forest.

Imagine if the Colorado had the “right” not to be impeded by Hoover Dam. Or if the Sacramento River had the right not to have its water diverted to irrigate farms in the Central Valley. It would be a human disaster.

But that is precisely the point. Environmentalism is becoming distinctly anti-human — both in advocacy and in desired outcomes.

I keep writing about this because — like cancer — early detection and eradication surgery is the key to stopping this madness. If we rally against nature rights (and animal rights — as distinct from animal welfare), we can keep humans as the only proper rights-bearers.

But too many of us see the metaphorical big bump on the West’s neck and shrug complacently that it’s just a benign cyst. No, it’s a malevolently malignant attack on human thriving that, if allowed to take hold, presents an existential threat to human exceptionalism and the moral values of Western civilization.

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