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Humanize ‘Nature Rights’ Advances to World Economic Forum

As the world is distracted by COVID or snoozing in an unwise “it can never happen here” complacency, the “nature rights” movement continues to advance in respectably. It has been endorsed by science journals. Four rivers have been granted rights. The Florida Democratic Party has put it in its plank. And now apparently, it is in the process of being embraced by the Davos set.

A piece in support of nature right was just given a high-profile boost at the World Economic Forum. From, “What if Nature Became a Legal Person?”:

If the stream were to be granted legal capacity, it could defend its interests and its rights. Should those rights be disregarded, the stream could take legal action in its own name, and would receive compensation based on the damage it incurred, which could then be used to restore its ecosystem.

Of course, “the stream” — a geological feature — would not be capable of doing any such thing. So, who would speak for the stream? Almost surely the most radical environmentalists. Perhaps anyone and everyone, as most “nature rights” laws permit anyone who thinks the rights of nature to “exist and persist in evolution” are being violated.

Nature rights would become a trial lawyer full-employment scheme, as threats of cases or actual litigation would produce a cornucopia of money for the radicals to take it to the free-market system:

Granting legal capacity to the elements of nature may also imply conceding oceans, forests and ecosystems’ representatives a seat alongside the world’s other decision-makers. After all, isn’t it their world too (human beings account for 0.01% of the Earth’s biomass)?

It is interesting to note that granting legal capacity to the elements of nature would also imply the recognition of their material assets such as funds accumulated through compensation or through their commercial activities. These funds could be used, for example, to hire lawyers in the case of a polluted lake, or to employ beekeepers to supervise the sustainable exploitation of a bee colony. These same funds could also be invested in the restoration of a damaged sub-ecosystem or the expansion of an endangered forest, alongside existing NGOs. By recognizing ecosystems as key stakeholders and even essential economic actors, this model would give them a chance to survive.

If nature is granted the status of personhood and accorded enforceable rights, we can kiss rebuilding a thriving economy goodbye. Worse, the world’s destitute would be thwarted from escaping their misery, as they would be prevented from exploiting natural resources because the copper in the mountain or the swamp near the river has the “right” not to be mined or drained.

Nature rights is one of the potentially destructive and radical agendas advancing in the world today. It would subvert human exceptionalism and reduce human freedom, because if everything has rights, the very concept would become as worthless as the Reichsmark became in Weimar.

Please don’t just roll your eyes. The drive to enable this agenda has a serious chance of succeeding because those who have the ability to stop it refuse to see it as a serious threat. This piece published by an internationally influential NGO should be a wakeup call that the movement is not on the fringe anymore.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.