As humans and United States citizens, we think and talk about rights a lot. It’s important that our government guarantees our rights as well as the rights of others because doing so empowers and assures us that there are some lines that can’t be crossed. We have extended these rights to humans and, in a limited form, to some animals, but these assurances are generally not afforded to plants or the rest of nature. While most everyone can agree about the importance of a healthy environment and planet, we often fail to create rights that protect nature. Entities like the Amazon rainforest are so essential for the health and biodiversity of our world that governments should guarantee them certain rights and penalize those violating said rights.
This idea is not simply a dream: Ecuador has already adopted a constitution that guarantees the rights of nature. The country rewrote their constitution and ratified the new document in September of 2008. The new “Rights for Nature” section states that “nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. And we – the people – have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems.” Instead of treating nature as something owned, the new constitution grants rights to nature, allowing it to be named as the defendant in court cases.
Source: Rainforest Partnership
While Ecuador has had difficulty enforcing these rights, the new section of the constitution marks an important shift in perspective. People are seeing nature as something that is not only important but deserving of guaranteed rights. Despite setbacks, Ecuador has had some degree of success: “On March 30, 2011 the Provincial Court of Justice of Loja granted a Constitutional injunction in favor of nature, specifically the Vilcabamba River, against the Provincial Government of Loja.” Such examples of nature being protected is a key step forward. By acknowledging the rights of nature, governments teach citizens and subsequent generations that nature, just like all humans, deserves respect too.
“Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.” Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.
Greene, Natalia. “Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.” Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.