The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.
In the early 2000s, the idea of giving legal rights to nature was on the fringes of environmental legal theory and public consciousness.
Today, New Zealand’s Whanganui River is a person under domestic law, and India’s Ganges River was recently granted human rights. In Ecuador, the Constitution enshrines nature’s “right to integral respect”.
What on earth does this all mean?
Fighting for nature
The theory of giving rights to nature was proposed in the 1970s by the American legal scholar Christopher D. Stone as a strategic environmental defence strategy.
In environmental litigation, many cases are unsuccessful because the people who bring the suit lack the legal standing to do so. It is hard for a plaintiff such as the US environmental protection…