Do humans own everything? Or can nature or a part of nature, like a river, a national park or even a tree have rights? Who owns it?
Nature owning itself is part of an emerging “rights of nature” movement that’s inspiring so many around the world.
Jan van de Venis is owner of law firm JustLaw, Corporate Law and Human Rights. His practice concentrates on human rights, law, and sustainable development. He wants people and those in legal power to start treating nature differently. His has a great passion for nature and humanity being reconnected to nature. He’s president of the Dutch National Park Dunes of Texel and the initiatives he takes in The Netherlands to have natural areas, starting with the Waddensea, acknowledged as a separate legal entities, which would be the first ‘rights of nature’ in The Netherlands. Jan is also an expert member of UN expert network ‘UN Harmony with Nature’ on earth-centered law.
The whole concept is sort of a Galileo moment for law – a paradigm but yet a very realistic shift. Law puts people in the center of rights, but in fact we are nature and always connected to nature. Humans are part of a much bigger and older natural system. Take trees for example, many of them have been around for over a hundred human generations before. Hopefully they will be around for more than a hundred years ahead. Our laws have not taken nature into account, at least not as an equal partner. Why don’t we treat nature as an entity with the same rights as we have given our corporations? They are also entities that do not really exist, but which we have given rights and people (their directors and boards) to stand up for them. More and more lawyers argue that instead of viewing nature as property to be owned, we should recognise that it has its own, inalienable rights similar to the ones we enjoy. And that the least we can do is give nature a more central or more balanced and equal place in our society.
Jan van de Venis is involved as advisor to multiple campaigns and initiatives on human rights and a healthy environment and on institutionalising the interests and rights of Future Generations. He chairs the Worldconnectors working group Future Generations, is ‘acting’ Dutch Ombudsperson for Future Generations and Vice Chair of the global Network of Institutions for Future Generations. Jan’s TEDx will inspire us on examples of rights of nature and how they fit into our legal system. In fact, even how they could fit into our Western legal systems: Jan introduces legal personality for nature in countries like the Netherlands. And he would like to start with the (UNESCO World Heritage listed) Wadden Sea.