This question may sound extreme or downright bizarre, but other nations have adopted laws that essentially grant the environment its own bill of rights. Bolivia, for example, enacted the Law of Mother Earth which grants the environment with the rights to life, diversity of life, to water and clean air, to equilibrium, to restoration, and to pollution-free living (Neill, 2014). A bill of rights like this personifies the environment. It makes people realize that it is a living system.
According to Stevens (2017), other nations have begun to consider adopting similar strategies. In India, the Ganges and Yamuna rivers have received similar rights and appointed two official protectors. Any harm, like pollution, to these rivers would be equivalent to harming a person. This will allow for immediate criminal action to be taken against any perpetrator. New Zealand is another nation which grants one of its natural features person-hood status. The nation’s Te Urewera National Park was given protections in 2014.
However, despite the good intentions of these policies, implementation has been difficult, especially for Bolivia. The reason: business opposition. The existing business community is ripe with “careless exploitation of natural resources” (Chávez, 2014). This is a problem that is not just unique to Bolivia. This exploitation is seen worldwide.
Nonetheless, legislation like the Law of Mother Earth can go a long way in reframing attitudes and beliefs about our environment. It helps make people realize that our natural systems are fragile and need to be given rights. We can no longer exploit without consequence. Humans are dependent on nature. We have not conquered it as many would like to assume. It is important that we treat it with the same respect that we would grant to a person.
Chávez, F. (2014). Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Hard to Implement. Inter Press Service. Retrieved from: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/bolivias-mother-earth-law-hard-implement/
Neill, P. (2014). Law of Mother Earth: A Vision From Bolivia. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-neill/law-of-mother-earth-a-vis_b_6180446.html
Stevens, S. (2017, April 10). Can human rights save Mother Nature? Mother Nature Network. Retrieved from: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/can-human-rights-save-mother-nature#disqus_area