Greens commit to Rights of Nature law

The Ecologist
February 29, 2016

At its Spring Conference in Harrogate yesterday the Green Party of England & Wales gave formal recognition to the Rights of Nature in an overwhelming vote, committing it to passing a new law to that effect at the earliest opportunity.

It's very exciting to see our Party leading the way as usual: Rights of Nature, as the people of Ecuador and other radical South American democracies know from first-hand experience, is an idea whose time has come.

The Green Party of England & Wales yesterday became the first UK-wide political party to vote Rights of Nature into their policies.

The motion was passed overwhelmingly by the conference floor. The full text that was passed was worked on in coordination with Mari Margil from CELDF (Community Environmental League Defence Fund), and Mumta Ito from the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature.

Rights of Nature is a growing environmental movement calling for new legal tools to be developed to defend nature's ecosystems. Central to this is the rejection of market valuations of nature and the recognition that nature will only be protected if we respect its innate value in law.

The proposer, Atus Mariqueo-Russell said: "With the adoption of Rights of Nature, the Green Party is once again at the forefront of advocating for exciting new ecological laws. In 2012 our conference passed a motion supporting the development of an international law of ecocide, and rights of nature is very much in the same vein as this."

The co-proposer Rupert Read, a philosopher of science and ecology at the University of East Anglia, added: "Rights of Nature is a new way of conceptualizing our relationship with nature. What we are looking at here is no less than a fundamental paradigm shift away from the toxic perception of nature as an object to be consumed."

Nature is priceless - not valueless

As Mariqueo-Russell and Read argued last week in The Ecologist: "We often hear the language of virulent capitalism seeping into our discussions of environmental conservation, with terms such as 'natural capital' and 'ecosystem services' becoming the lingua franca of international conservation bodies.

"This basically economistic approach will not protect the environment, because it involves a further commodification of nature's ecosystems - embracing precisely the same framework that has failed us so miserably."

The motion just passed at Conference, they explain, recognises this reality: "we cannot protect ecosystems with the same legal frameworks and monetised discourse that has been responsible for so much environmental destruction.

"The view of ecosystems as commodities to be consumed is not compatible with our moral responsibility to future generations, as the consumption of finite resources in the present will necessarily deprive future generations of access to enjoy the same resources. Furthermore, as you will be aware, the threat of environmental catastrophe is not an abstract problem for future generations.

"We are currently seeing ecosystems collapsing at an unprecedented rate, species extinction accelerating, and global warming advancing rapidly. So instead of measuring nature by its direct financial benefit to us - a task we have proven incapable of anyway - we propose to extend formal rights to ecosystems."

Rights to Nature movement grows

The movement had its first major success in 2008, when Ecuador recognised Rights of Nature in their new constitution. The articles acknowledge that "Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution."

The Constitution therefore requires the State to "apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles."

It is moreover 'the people' that have legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems: "Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature ... The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem."

Read more here.