Property Rights vs. Rights of Nature

Rio de Janeiro

The most important issue here in Rio is contrasted in two distinctly different worldviews. One view sees nature as a corporate commodity with humans acting as retail clerks and consumers of the “resources”, while holding themselves above and separate from Nature. The other is the new emerging paradigm that holds the view that we are an integral and

All of Nature is Watching!

interdependent part of nature, with the responsibility of caring for, maintaining and restoring vitality to our eco systems. Of course this earth-centered perspective is not a new view – it is one that indigenous tribes have held for millennium. What is new is that seven billion humans have become such a dominant presence on this planet that we ensure our own destruction if we continue in the direction we are headed. The overwhelming consensus of scientists is that climate change and ecocide are the result of humanities’ actions. Of course that also means that we are the ones with the potential to turn things around to a more eco friendly way of living in harmony with the earth. The over whelming question is how can we do that – a market place approach or earth centered caring economy?

Unfortunately corporate interests have immense financial resources, political power, control of the legal system and domination of the media. But what has been clearly and visibly demonstrated here in Rio is that the emperors have no clothes. The rhetoric about a Green Economy and Sustainable Development (emphasis on economy and development) can be seen for what it truly is, an excuse for privatization and commodification of the natural world for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. Market solutions to a problem caused by the market will only bring more destruction and externalized debt. As more and more people realize that our current governments and corporate interests are not going to save us, a new revolutionary possibility arises. That is the rise of civil society to take matters into their own hands. As the Hopi elders have prophesied, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

What is needed is a shift in consciousness from an eco- apartheid perspective of separateness, to experiencing our absolute and total interrelationship with the natural world and turning that realization into action. Just talking about it is not enough! We must begin to act from a place of being the earth. This challenging shift in perspective must direct our actions, words, thoughts and deeds if humanity is to survive. To assist in shifting this point of view I have listed some important and valuable resources below. At the heart of this shift is the idea of moving from a human jurisprudence based in our colonial legal system, to an Earth centered jurisprudence. The focus on the rights of nature is at the heart of this potential transformation.

Ecuador is the first country to put protection of the rights of nature into its constitution. Many local municipalities and community groups around the world are creating legal instruments to protect the environment from corporate greed and commercial commodification. Nature is not a thing. It is a home, a diverse system of interrelated communities of life that
work interdependently. To allow only one species to dominate this system ensures it’s destruction. I know to many of my readers it seems strange to think of giving rights to nature. It was also once unthinkable to give rights to women, to slaves, in fact the idea of human rights was also beyond comprehension.  It is now time to think about giving rights to trees, rivers, oceans, glaciers and the thousands of species that become extinct every year. Isn’t it time to respect and honor the rights of all life on this mother of all life, our living, breathing and beautiful planet Earth? This is an idea whose time has come! We have the opportunity to imagine and create a major paradigm shift. Let’s make this is the defining issue of our time.

For more information on Rights of Nature go to:



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2 responses to “Property Rights vs. Rights of Nature

  1. Thanks for this excellent report from Rio.

    Among your appended links you include a pointer to CELDF. A number of us here in the Grass Valley, Nevada City area took their “Democracy School” a couple of years ago. Very eye-opening.

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