Justice : nature recognized as a legal personality

Nature, ecosystems or other environmental elements are now recognized as legal entities in many countries in the world. This status grants them the same rights as human beings. Pollution is then seen as a damage of the environment physical integrity.

This movement in favor of nature began in Latin America, with principles such as the Buen vivir, or « live well », a life philosophy of indigenous peoples. They don’t make a distinction between human and nature. It is just natural for them to protect the environment. It’s up to us to take inspiration from it.

Overview of ecosystems considered as persons in the world

The mother earth

  • In 2008 and 2009, Ecuador and Bolivia inscribed in their constitution the Mother Earth rights.
  • Nature in its entirety obtains rights : mountains, rivers, lands. It is a gigantic step towards the environment protection. Everyone can now obtain justice for a element of nature that has been damaged.

Rivers and oceans

  • In 2012, New Zealand grants the legal person status to the Whanganui river.
  • This river is sacred is the Maorie culture : it is a living being. Maoris consider it as their ancestor. The New Zealander government also officially recognized Maoris as guardians of the river. This victory is the fruit of a long fight : the Maorie tribe Iwi claimed to recognize the identity of the river since 1870.

Whanganui river is particularly threatened by the industrial pollution. The government has planned 52 million euros to fix the damages and insure its protection in the future.

  • In March 2017, India grants the Gange and one of its affluents, the Yamuna, the legal person status.

nature recognized-legal-personality

  • Gange is the most sacred river in India. There are daily rituals and pilgrimages. Indians come to drink, bath, pray, purify themselves or even spread the ashes from their dead.

But the Gange is also one of the most polluted river in the world. The decision to juridically protect the river aim to fight against pollution by industries and sewage.

  • In June 2017 in New York, during the first worldwide conference on oceans, New Caledonia offered to recognize the rights of the Pacific Ocean.

We are still waiting for the UN decision. If it is favorable, the Pacific Ocean could be granted the legal personality status. Its defenders report that the Pacific Ocean is the victim of many abuses : pollution, overfishing, oceans acidification, biodiversity lost, coral bleaching…

Natural sites and the wildlife

  • Since 2016, Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia, declare that some of the nature and biodiversity elements could be selected to benefit a legal personality. Natural sites and animals are considered.
  • The Kanaks in New Caledonia, such as many indigenous communities, have a conception of nature very different than ours. In their culture, nature is sacred or deificated. The Kanaks identity is intimately connected to some natural sites they consider as temples.

Law and policy to protect the environment

Protect the nature thanks to law and policy, would it be the ultimate solution to save it ? The environmental situation is indeed critical. Measures are therefore extreme and original. Law is a new weapon to fight the pollution problem. It remains to state its effectiveness.

In the French political sphere, the fight for the nature rights recognition is gaining ground. For example, during the presidential campaign :

  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon pleaded for the recognition of the crime of ecocide. It is the equivalent of a physical assault to an ecosystem victim of a degradation.
  • Benoît Hamon offered to inscribe in the Constitution the planetary commons, namely air and water.

It now suits to follow and support this kind of alternative aiming to efficiently protect the nature around us.