This is the peril posed by the “nature rights” movement. Whenever any human activity interferes with what environmentalists believe should be done, such laws permit them to sue and stop the enterprise.
Case in point. Two years ago the Ojibwe tribe granted wild rice the “right to exist,” which could be said to be a synonym for a right to life. As I noted back then:
The law begins: “Manoomin, or wild rice, within all the Chippewa ceded territories, possesses inherent rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve, as well as inherent rights to restoration, recovery and preservation.”
The Rights of Manoomin include:
– The right to clean water and freshwater habitat
– The right to a natural environment free from industrial pollution
– The right to a healthy, stable climate free from human-caused climate change impacts
– The right to be free from patenting
– The right to be free from contamination by genetically engineered organisms
Imagine the litigation such a law would generate if it were enforceable outside of tribal lands.
Well, we don’t have to imagine anymore. The “wild rice” has now brought a lawsuit in tribal court seeking to prevent the repair of an oil pipeline — a microcosm of things to come if the “nature rights” movement continues to advance. From the CBC story:
Wild rice is the lead plaintiff in a new lawsuit aimed at halting construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline replacement.
“Wild rice is the most important spiritual, central part of our culture. Wild rice is what’s making us come out and protect water,” Frank Bibeau, a treaty rights attorney for the White Earth First Nation in Minnesota, told As It Happens guest host Nil Köksal.
“Wild rice protects us. Wild rice feeds us. Wild rice tells us when there’s something wrong in the water or in the air or in the ground. Wild rice is an indicator species. And wild rice is disappearing.
Bibeau filed the suit Wednesday in the White Earth Nation Tribal Court. It lists the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a defendant, and several White Earth tribal members and Line 3 protesters as plaintiffs alongside wild rice, or manoomin in Ojibway.
Ironically, the point of the repair is to prevent leaks and ruptures. But the wild rice apparently “wants” no oil piped.
The lawsuit asks the tribal court to grant an injunction to void the water permit the DNR issued to Enbridge for Line 3.
If the tribal court rules against the oil pipeline, that would not end the story:
But even if the lawsuit is successful, Bibeau says he doesn’t expect the state to abide by the tribal court’s decision. Still, he says Line 3 opponents could use a tribal court victory to fast-track their case to a U.S. federal court.
That’s where things could get dicey, depending on the judge.
As I said, this is a microcosm story. But it also a cogent warning of our future that may await if states and the federal government don’t pass laws exclusively reserving “rights” to the human realm (individuals and juridical associations) and prohibiting nature and animals from having legal standing in any court of law.