Should Nature Have Rights? Orthodoxy and Innovation

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Confronted by a stream of dire reports of present and pending ecological
destruction, it is no wonder that many of us seek out developments that have the
potential to lead us down a different path. One such development is the growing
number of constitutions, laws, and judicial decisions that have recognized that natural entities—rivers, glaciers, mountains (or Nature as a whole)—have rights or legal personality. These developments include constitutional recognition of Nature in Ecuador and Bolivia, river personhood judgments in Colombia, India, and Bangladesh, and treaty-based legislative recognition of a range of natural entities, including rivers, mountains, and a former national park, in Aotearoa New Zealand, to name a few of the most prominent. While sometimes described as a trend, or even a “rights of nature movement,” the details of these developments, remarkable for their diversity and place based specificity, often get lost in the narrative created by both “rights of nature” proponents and simplistic critics.
Mihnea Tănăsescu explores the diverse histories, meanings, and examples of rights of nature (“RoN”) developments and adopts a critical and reflective approach that foregrounds politics, arguing that “the question of who has the power to represent a nature with rights is central to understanding their potential.” Nonetheless, law “matters a lot!” (Tănăsescu 2022, 17).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023


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