The Corner


Nature Rights Makes the New York Times

I keep warning that the nature rights movement is a real threat to human thriving, and I keep hearing people hoot and say, “It will never happen here.” (Anyone who says that has been in a coma for the last 50 years.)

The movement has now made the pages of the New York Times in a friendly story about how lawyers seeking to represent the Colorado River in a lawsuit. And, we are told, none other than Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas liked the idea. From, “Corporations Have Rights, Why Not Rivers?”

The idea of giving nature legal rights, however, is not new. It dates to at least 1972, when a lawyer, Christopher Stone, wrote an article titled “Should Trees Have Standing?”…

“Justice William Douglas had read Stone’s article,” Ms. Freeman wrote, “and in his famous dissent, he embraced the view advocated by Stone: that natural objects should be recognized as legal parties, which could be represented by humans, who could sue on their behalf.”

That view has never attracted support in the court. But it has had some success abroad.

Once a subversive movement–which this is–receives respectful NYT coverage, it is in the mainstream. Indeed, within a few years, I predict the Times’ radical editorial board will endorse nature rights. 

So no more eye rolling and dismissive complacency. Otherwise, mining and timber companies, energy producers, farmers, ranchers, and other crucial industries may soon find themselves spending more time in court than creating dynamic enterprises.

This is part of the war against human exceptionalism. If forests and swamps, insects and granite outcroppings–all aspects of nature–have rights, if rights cease to be restricted to the human realm, then all we are is another animal in the forest. 



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