Imagine if rivers, reefs, mountains and forests had rights to survive and thrive just like humans have rights and animals have rights? This month big steps have taken place towards that kind of a world.
First - New Zealand made the Whanganui River the first river in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a human being. In the same way that corporations, foundations and governments have legal rights where they are treated like people, and humans can then fight for them in court, the sacred Whanganui River now has the same rights.
That lets the Maori tribes fight on behalf of the river to protect it. Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said last week "The approach of granting legal personality to a river is unique. It will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person.”
As part of the Parliament ruling, the Maori tribes who represent the river received $80m settlement from the government for damage done, and another $30m to improve the river.
Second - This week India followed by granting two of its most holy rivers, the Ganges and Yamuna, to also have the same legal status, calling both rivers "living entities having the status of a legal person.”
The Indian judges used the New Zealand case as a precedent and said the ruling was essential as the rivers were in danger of "losing their very existence.”
Indian lawyer, MC Pant, said "This will help protect the rivers, as they now have all the constitutional and statutory rights of human beings, including the right to life.”
Imagine if we all agreed that nature has the same right to life that humans and animals have. Each river, reef, mountain and forest could then get representation, funding and protection just as companies can. People would choose whether they want to work for a factory or for a force of nature.
Imagine every beach cafe and restaurant knowing some of their revenues goes directly to the team supporting the beach, who would use it to preserve and clean the beach. Imagine every home, business and boat that uses a river knowing they are helping to fund the team that is ensuring the river is alive and thriving.
I remember when I first heard from Lynne Twist that her foundation, the Pachamama Alliance, had helped to inspire Ecuador to be the the first country to adopt rights of nature in their constitution, how great it would be if this became a global movement.
The wave has started.
In the midst of plenty of bad news around the world, good things are happening.
"Small channels flow noisily, the great flow silent." ~ Buddha