The Rights of Nature movement aims to give rivers, skies, and mountains the same legal rights as humans. In recent years, this movement has gained momentum, with several countries passing  laws recognizing the Rights of Nature. However, implementing these laws has been difficult, and some courts have declared them to be “unconstitutionally vague”. In response to this issue, a recent review in Science examined the essential role that scientists can play in ensuring that these laws are effective.

The review examines laws in multiple countries focused on nature preservation and highlights Ecuador’s exceptional efforts in implementing Rights of Nature laws, which became part of its constitution in 2008. The momentous 2021 court ruling, which stopped mining exploration in the Los Cedros protected forest, was a significant accomplishment that incorporated scientific evidence presented by expert ecologists and biologists.  This evidence included how mining could disrupt nature’s ecological functions, such as river flow and wildlife habitat, and therefore impede on the natural rights of that ecosystem to exist and thrive. Scientific evidence plays a crucial role in guiding environmental decisions and highlights the importance of following the Rights of Nature laws in promoting environmental preservation.

It is also crucial to acknowledge the environmental conservation efforts made by Indigenous communities, who have been the primary protectors of biodiversity. The strong presence of these communities in areas with established Rights of Nature laws is noteworthy. It is important to acknowledge and preserve  indigenous ecological knowledge, while also incorporating Western science. By working together in partnerships between science and Indigenous communities, effective protection of the environment can be secured, and the Rights of Nature movement can be fostered.     

This review was authored by Yaffa Epstein, researcher at Uppsala University, Faculty of Law, Uppsala, Sweden and visiting researcher at Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala, Sweden.

Managing Correspondent: Marwa Osman

Original Journal Article: Science and the legal rights of nature

Image Credit: Dan Fador from Pixabay

3 thoughts on “Can Science Boost the Rights of Nature Movement?

    Crimes against nature and our environment. No different to crimes against mankind or their rights. Yes. Prosecute the people involved, those who do it deliberately, leaders responsible, companies without solutions. Where does one start? including damaging environment through warfare, special military missions, flooding caused by deliberately diverting water by damaging a dam for example, causing flooding, death to ecosystems, destroying infrastructure, as we see right now, in Ukraine as a recent, day by day example. And the ocean? What about all the junk, failed military experiments that drop into it, what does our sea life say? Boy, that was a close shave, I think it was a terrorist attack, mankind, the homo sapiens did it, all my family died. Go for it. Everything that is worthwhile is slow. Even by only one. I often think. Can one person make a difference? It can. But if there is no start, it does not happen. Environment cannot be replaced, everything on and in it has evolved with it, it cannot speak for itself. Companies must have solutions to residual or legacy waste before manufacturing products. What will happen to the plastic I manufacturer, how will it be disposed of, made into new products, the nuclear waste? How will it be recycled. Rather than wait for someone else to find it.
    So glad to read this is taking shape. Best wishes to all.

  2. How does a rock, or water, or the air have any rights at all? They don’t think or act in any intelligent way. They aren’t living, and to talk about giving inanimate objects rights is just a silly thing. Let’s not forget, we live on top of an active planet. And a few large volcanoes can do much more harm to the land than anything we can ever do.

    Yes, we should be responsible in our use of nature. But there will always be disagreement as to what that entails. Some people would prefer all humans to be gone, to “allow” nature to be “natural”. But then, who would be around to appreciate the beauty that is in nauture.

    1. In the same line of reasoning, do you think it is equally silly if not more silly, to grant rights to corporation, also a non-living entity, which is responsible for all the ecological catastrophes on the planet?

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