The Earth Law Movement Grows


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Originally published in 1972, Should Trees Have Standing? rallied a new environmental movement. Christopher Stone, a professor at the University of Southern California, wrote the article and then published a book with the same title. Article here. The idea of Rights of Nature appeared in the United States Supreme Court later in 1972, when Judge William O.Douglas wrote a dissenting opinion to the Sierra Club v. Morton decision:

Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality; a fiction found useful for maritime purposes ... So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life ...The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled.

What’s happened since the 1970s?

Since Stone’s essay, the movement has taken big leaps forward. In 2008 and 2011, two countries (Ecuador and Bolivia) amended their constitutions to recognize Rights of Nature. The movement has continued to build with 160+ municipalities and towns around the world, three rivers (Whanganui in New Zealand, Atrato and Amazon in Colombia) and a volcanic mountain (Mount Taranaki) now recognized as having legal rights recognized in the courts

Earth Law Center has launched nearly two dozen initiatives to secure legal rights recognition for rivers, coastal regions, towns, and Marine Protected Areas. 

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