The Corner

Energy & Environment

‘Nature Rights’ Movement Going Mainstream

I have an extended cover story in the current issue of the Acton Institute’s journal, Religion and Liberty, about the existential threat to rationality and human exceptionalism posed by the “nature rights” movement. I hope you will take the time to read it.

Most media with which I interact on this issue assume that advocating personhood for nature must be a fringe meme. It certainly should be, but increasingly isn’t. Four rivers and two glaciers have been granted “rights.” More than 30 U.S. municipalities have adopted such statutes, and it is law in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Here’s more evidence that “nature rights” are increasingly accepted by the intellectual mainstream. An environmental journal, YaleEnvironment360 — published at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies — has just published an accepting story reporting about how far that movement has already come.

Moreover, it seems to advocate this approach, or at the very least, certainly accepts it — no critical voices are presented throughout the extended article — and concludes on a complimentary note. From, “Should Rivers Have Rights? A Growing Movement Says It’s About Time:”

Despite the promise held by establishing legal rights for rivers, difficult questions remain. What does it mean for a river to have the rights of a person?

Does a river have the right to flow freely, and does this mean its waters can’t be dammed or diverted? Is compensation to affected communities permissible in lieu of court orders requiring removal of large obstructions like dams?

What can we do to move beyond merely acknowledging humanity’s connection to rivers to actually saving them? And, finally, and perhaps most important, how should a legal regime determine who will advocate on behalf of a river, which lacks a voice of its own? In the future, these are questions policymakers will have to address.

Considering that “the right to flow” is the first of many purported “rights” of rivers, these questions are not only very germane, but clearly materially threaten human thriving.

I agree that policymakers should address this issue — throttling it while it remains embryonic. One easy way would be to enact statutes and promulgate regulations unequivocally stating that non-human animals and all aspects of “nature” have no legal standing in any court and cannot be the subject of enforceable rights.

But to do that, people will have to start taking the threat of “nature rights” seriously, and alas, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Such “it can’t happen here” complacency could have far reaching adverse consequences in the years to come.

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More