Rights of Nature Laws Are Critical to Protect Our Resources

In the art of storytelling, there is something called the ‘red thread’, when one story told begets another, begets another, and so on, weaving the participating audience into the community through related experiences.

This leads us to a story to celebrate.

It involves the tenth anniversary this September of the Ecuadorian Constitution, Pope Francis, and the Amazon River; among other natural phenomena. The passage of Ecuador’s Constitution ten years ago gave us legally enforceable Rights of Nature “to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.”

Along with Pope Francis, who has declared ‘A true right of the environment’ does exist, the Ecuadorian constitution gives permission to those on Pachamamato stand up for her, by stating “Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.” This is the kind of community that leads to a ‘red thread’ of stories we can be grateful for, and perhaps yearn to tell our own from, regarding those precious places on the earth that have touched our lives and the desire to protect them. In New Zealand, the parliament now recognizes the ecosystems of the Te Urewera and Whanganui River ecosystem as legal entities with their own rights. In Colombia, the courts have ruled that the Atrato and Amazon River systems have rights to exist and flourish. India has issued rulings recognizing the Ganga, and Yamuna rivers, glaciers, and ecosystems as legal persons with certain rights. Also declaring that “every species has an inherent right to live and to be protected by law,” declaring rights for the entire animal kingdom. Citizens of Nepal have begun rights of nature for the Himalayas. The campaign for the legal recognition of rights for the Great Barrier Reef in underway in Australia.

In the United States, more than thirty communities have adopted Rights of Nature laws with efforts continuing in Washington, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, and other states to amend state constitutions.

In an era of a great challenge, there is also the opportunity for great response to arising from within us. With the coming of age for Rights of Nature something greater than our small human selves is confirmed; the power of our collective consciousness to a-tune to the answers that support life. And for each of us participating in the story of the ‘living beingness’ of world ecosystems, it’s red thread becomes stronger, more alive, and viable.

- Maggie Milliette, former long-time resident of Lake Geneva

**This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Geneva Shore Report in October, 2018**

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