Carnegie Council Pushes “Nature Rights”

by Wesley J. Smith

Too few people comprehend how profoundly, if subtly, Big Bucks foundations impact our society and culture–and often not for the better. When the Foundations are pushing a meme, it needs to be taken very seriously.

The push for “nature rights,” has now reached that level of advocacy. An article in the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations journal takes the issue very seriously–and supports its implementation. That’s no small matter.

It’s a long piece, and I can’t respond to the whole thing.  But I think the creation of a moral equivalency between human beings and “nature,” serves my purpose of demonstrating the subversive and destructive potential of this movement. From, “The Rights of Nature Reconsidered” by Australian law professor Peter Burdon:

While the law had recently shifted to recognise racial and gender equality, it was not yet ready to consider seriously an extension of rights to nature.

Stone anticipated this resistance, noting ‘[t]hroughout legal history, each successive extension of ​rights to some new entity has been, thereto, a bit unthinkable … each time there is a movement to confer rights onto some new “entity”, the proposal is bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable’

This is because until the entity in question is recognised as having rights, ‘we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of ‘us’—those who are holding rights at the time’. This is true for nature, as it was for slaves, women and children at different points in history.​

Do you see? The human examples all dealt with equals–e.g., different categories of human beings–being treated unequally. That was a profound injustice.

But nature rights, like animal rights, would treat unequals as equals.  

Nature rights advocates deny human exceptionalism.  But if we implemented a regimen of nature rights, it would only–could only, by definition–apply against us, since only we understand the concept:

Trees, rivers, mountains and soil do not have rights and they are unable to recognise the rights of others. Thus, a mountain slide that uproots a small pine forest does not violate the rights of the tree community. Even if the mountain slide kills human beings, it does not violate human rights. The mountain is not guilty of reprehensible behaviour and one cannot bring it to be shamed in a court of law.

Legal rights correspond with legitimate claims and entitlements. Thus, a mountain climber has a right to be rescued by a mountain ranger, because of their relationship and the existence of a duty of care. If the mountain ranger stood and watched the mountain slide engulf the mountain climber and he was in a reasonable position to rescue the individual, he would be morally, as well as legally, responsible.

An intellectually sound rights-based discourse must acknowledge and accept Rolston’s comments. It is plainly nonsense to speak of nature holding duties or to suppose that rights exist between one part of nature and another. The concept applies only in the context of human interaction with nature and would place duties only on human beings.

But even that commonsense and rational observation must fall to radical Greenism:

The recognition of rights is not an ‘all or nothing’ conferral. Commenting on this point, Thomas Berry notes, ‘rights in the nonliving form are role-specific; rights in the living form are species specific and limited.’

Thus, rivers have river rights; trees have tree rights; birds have bird rights and humans have human rights. The difference is qualitative, not quantitative, and the rights of one part of nature would be of no value to another part. 

But this is gibberish. Nature rights would force us to give “nature” equal consideration whenever engaging in human enterprise. Two countries and more than 30 US cities already have such laws, which are supported by Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Worse, these laws permit anyone to bring lawsuits as nature’s rights enforcers protecting its “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure,, functions, and its processes in evolution”–the effect being to empower the most radical ideologues to determine the scope and nature of acceptable human activities. That’s a prescription for destroying property rights and collapse the economy in the cause of “saving the planet.”  

The nature rights movement is part of the war on humans. It should be taken seriously. Advance troops have already crossed the border. It not only can happen here, it is happening.