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Ecuador May Give Nature ‘Human Rights’

From the UK’s Guardian:

Thomas Linzey

A new law of nature

Ecuador next week votes on giving legal rights to rivers, forests and air. Is this the end of damaging development? The world is watching

Clare Kendall
Wednesday September 24 2008

The South American republic of Ecuador will next week consider what many countries in the world would say is unthinkable. People will be asked to vote on Sunday on a new constitution that would give Ecuador’s tropical forests, islands, rivers and air similar legal rights to those normally granted to humans. If they vote yes – and polls show that 56% are for and only 23% are against – then an already approved bill of rights for nature will be introduced, and new laws will change the legal status of nature from being simply property to being a right-bearing entity.

The proposed bill states: “Natural communities and ecosystems possess the unalienable right to exist, flourish and evolve within Ecuador. Those rights shall be self-executing, and it shall be the duty and right of all Ecuadorian governments, communities, and individuals to enforce those rights.”

Thomas Linzey, a US lawyer who has helped to develop the new legal framework for nature, says: “The dominant form of environmental protection in industrialised countries is based on the regulatory system. Governments permit and legalise the discharge of certain amounts of toxics into the environment. As a form of environmental protection, it’s not working.

“In the same way, compensation is measured in terms of that injury to a person or people. Under the new system, it will be measured according to damage to the ecosystem. The new system is, in essence, an attempt to codify sustainable development. The new laws would grant people the right to sue on behalf of an ecosystem, even if not actually injured themselves.”

Until now, all legal frameworks have been anthropocentric, or people-based. To file an environmental lawsuit requires a person to provide evidence of personal injury. This can be extremely difficult. To provide a conclusive link, say, between a cancer and polluted drinking water is, legally speaking, virtually impossible.

The origins of this apparent legal tidal shift lie in Ecuador’s growing disillusionment with foreign multinationals. The country, which contains every South American ecosystem within its borders, which include the Galapagos Islands, has had disastrous collisions with multi-national companies. Many, from banana companies to natural gas extractors, have exploited its natural resources and left little but pollution and poverty in their wake

“The hope is that the new laws will give us unprecedented legal muscle to protect areas like this where there are competing interests,” says Linda Siegele, a lawyer for the UK-based Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development.

Linzey admits that Ecuador may be taking a step into the legal unknown. “No one knows what will happen [if the referendum goes in favour of new rights for nature] because there are no examples of how this works in the real world,” he says. “A lot of people will be watching what happens.”

Have no fear. Mr. Linzey is quite the expert.

He has even appeared in the Leonardo DiCaprio’s brilliant film The 11th Hour.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Ecuador May Give Nature ‘Human Rights’”

  1. BelchSpeak says:

    So businesses leave poverty in their wake? Lets see how wealthy the dopes in Ecuador become now that they are banning all development.

    You know, leftists love to complain about how badly the white man treated the indigenous people in South America. Its great to see that whackjobs like Linzey are so interested in carrying on the murderous rampages of the original conquistadors. Natives from the Arctic to the Antarctic were almost exterminated when cultures clashed. Moonbattery will drive the final nails in their coffins.

  2. DGA says:

    Well, there goes the supply of bananas, and the immediate price increase. Trash laws like this are intended to seep their idealogy into other places, say, like the US, which is where I’m sure linzey wants it to end up. B. hussein obama would welcome it with open arms. Wow, I can’t wait!

  3. wardmama4 says:

    Ah so typical of the Left – what one can not get the people to buy into, let the Courts rule on it.

  4. 1republicanscientist says:

    Wow. These libs…..what a bunch of toe-jams. Anyway, good thing they will give “nature” human rights, while a fetus is out there flapping in the breeze. Go ecuador, go bloated gore.

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