During our discussion of Justice Douglas’s dissent in the Sierra Club v. Morton case, it was mentioned that there are countries that have actually granted nature – both animate and inanimate components of ecosystems – legal rights. This intrigued me, and I looked up which countries those were. Apparently, Ecuador was the first nation in the world to grant nature legal rights, when it added a “nature” provision to its constitution in 2008. This provision has not been enacted in law yet, but has led to a successful decision granting an injunction in favor of the Vilcabamba river. Bolivia has followed suit, passing a more comprehensive law in 2010, which established 7 rights for mother nature, including “the right to live free of pollution including toxic and radioactive waste,” “the right to life including the integrity of ecosystems and natural processes, and the necessary conditions for regeneration,” and others. This law will eventually be expanded to include 11 rights, which are not yet finalized. An article on the subject can be found here: http://www.ethicalliving.com.au/2011/08/protecting-the-rights-of-mother-nature/.
Turkey wishes to follow the example of Ecuador and Bolivia and a group of 40 politicians, academics and lawyers have started to consider drafting a similar provision to be incorporated into the constitution. The provision would include the following principles, among others: “defining humans as a part of their natural environment and acknowledging that other species have rights in accordance with their role in the system,” and that “the economic system should be socially fair and ecologically sustainable.”
A full article on Turkey’s proposition can be found here: http://positivenews.org.uk/2011/peace_democracy/justice/4569/rights-nature-proposed-turkey/.