Rights of Nature


Can we protect the environment as long as we treat it as human property?


The Community (and nature’s) Rights program works with communities and allies in the US and around the world to recognize that as long as the law treats ecosystems as property we cannot truly protect nature.

Despite our fleeting human existence in the lifetime of planet Earth, it is clear our impact has been woefully burdensome.  Entire human societies, our global economic system and indeed our structures of law, have been built from a colonial mindset that places humans not just apart from, but actually, above nature. But what is climate change but Nature telling us we have lived beyond the limits of nature’s law? And whether it is fear, folly, arrogance or sin, we have continued to cling to a destructive worldview.
The law is an important expression of society’s values, and how we use power to implement those values. It reflects and makes real our idea of the world. As human culture has evolved to treat nature as a “thing” outside and apart from us, human property to be owned and destroyed at will, our laws developed to codify that understanding. Our legal systems are aimed at controlling and dominating nature. But history shows us again and again that culture changes law, and law in turn, broadly changes culture. In 2008 Ecuador became the first nation to constitutionally recognize nature’s rights to “exist, flourish and evolve.” And from small communities all over the world to the UN, Global Exchange is working to shift the paradigm: Can we envisage for ourselves a future based not on exploiting nature but instead recognizing that nature has inherent rights to exist, thrive, and flourish? How different would our human societies, economies, and structures of law look as part of a connected, earth-centered community? And, how do we get there?

Working with Communities

Like other movements for justice, the Rights of Nature movement will grow from the grassroots. Those very same communities asking, “who decides” are beginning to stand up and take action for their local ecosystems too.  Not only are these communities reclaiming their democracy, they are transforming the legal understanding of nature as property (to be destroyed at will) to recognizing the inalienable rights of ecosystems to flourish.  In addition to our work with US Communities to pass laws recognizing rights of nature; we are collaborating with international partners and community groups to build a global movement to support the rights of nature...

International Focus: Shifting the Dialogue and Building a Global Movement for Rights of Nature

The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of The Rights of Mother Earth
On Earth Day, 2011 Global Exchange released a new book that explores these questions and more. Co-developed by Global Exchange, Council of Canadians and Fundacion Pachamama, the book titled Rights of Nature: Making a Case for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, begins to reveal the path of a movement that is driving the cultural and legal shift that is necessary to transform our human relationship with nature away from being property-based and towards a rights-based model of balance.

The book gathers the unique wisdom of indigenous cultures, scientists, environmental activists, lawyers, and small farmers in order to make a case for how and why humans must work to change our current structures of law to recognize that nature has inherent rights. 

Since its release last April, the book has been read by people from all across the US and the world. It clear that more and more people are looking to the Rights of Nature as a new approach to protecting and preserving the environment. Copies of the book are $15, including shipping for US orders. Please contact Shannon Biggs (shannon@globalexchange.org) to get a copy!

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