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.
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.