Culture

The Corner

Rivers Given “Rights”

Over at my bi-weekly First Things column I discuss the consequences of granting “rights” to rivers–as has been done in New Zealand and India–and the more broad “nature rights” movement that is gaining steam. From, “Rivers Declared to be ‘Persons:”

We live in truly surreal times. In an age when all human beings still do not have access to human rights—and when some of the world’s foremost bioethicists declare that the unborn and cognitively disabled are not persons—radical environmentalists and others are agitating to grant “rights” to objects in nature.

In the latest phase of this descent into metaphysical madness, two rivers have been declared to be legal “persons” endowed with human-style rights.

These two rivers were declared persons in secular countries to honor the religious beliefs of proponents. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Imagine a law stating that the Host in the Catholic Communion is the body and blood of Christ. The screaming from some of the supporters of granting rights to rivers would never stop.

For radical environmentalists, supporting such theocratic laws has a cynical point:

Radical environmentalists supporting these declarations are playing a cynical game. They don’t believe the theology expressed in these laws. But they are happy to harness the religious energy of the faithful to promote their own quest to destroy human exceptionalism by granting legal rights to nature and its various aspects—and not just to rivers believed to be sacred.

Granting “rights” to nature requires us to give equal consideration to flora, fauna, and geological phenomena that might be adversely affected by human activity. And more subversively, it will open the courtroom doors to radical environmentalist lawyers who will surely fire a barrage of lawsuits seeking to uphold the rights of their animal, vegetable, river, mountain, meadow, and microorganism clients.

Granting “rights” to nature would have a very subversive consequence:

Taken to its logical conclusion, nature rights would prevent us from truly owning property in the first place. We would become, at best, fiduciaries for all of the life forms on and of the tracts of land that we no longer truly owned.

Such self-destructive policies would have a particularly pernicious impact on the developing world, where granting equal rights to bushes, mosquitoes, viruses, and swamps would thwart people’s ability to liberate themselves from destitution.

Bottom line: Nature rights and affiliated radical environmental policies are, in both intent and potential outcomes, anti-human.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More