Palila v Hawaii. New Zealand's Te Urewera Act. Sierra Club v Disney. These legal phrases hardly sound like the makings of a revolution, but beyond the headlines portending environmental catastrophes, a movement of immense import has been building - in courtrooms, legislatures, and communities across the globe. Cultures and laws are transforming to provide a powerful new approach to protecting the planet and the species with whom we share it.
Lawyers from California to New York are fighting to gain legal rights for chimpanzees and killer whales, and lawmakers are ending the era of keeping these intelligent animals in captivity. In Hawaii and India, judges have recognized that endangered species - from birds to lions - have the legal right to exist. Around the world, more and more laws are being passed recognizing that ecosystems - rivers, forests, mountains, and more - have legally enforceable rights. And if nature has rights, then humans have responsibilities.
In The Rights of Nature, noted environmental lawyer David Boyd tells this remarkable story, which is, at its heart, one of humans as a species finally growing up. Listen to this book and your world view will be altered forever.
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It shows there are some going in the right direction. Wish it would go faster, but there's some promise.
My issues are with the content. The book fetishizes "indigenous" *religious* values, and the author confidently ridicules Western concepts of property. This dismissive tone only becomes more bitter as the book recounts all of the legal hurdles this movement has faced.
I see multiple legal issues with the kind of revolution the author hopes happens.
1. It's based entirely on emotional and quasi-spiritual appeals. Only oblique references to reasons why humans should care.
2. It acts as if romanticized "indigenous" concepts of property are going to overturn centuries of well-developed and entrenched legal tradition IN COURT. This is absolute fantasy in common law countries. You need statutes to do that.
3. Speaking of statutes, they're passed by elected legislative bodies. And executive orders come from elected presidents. That requires some cultural and popular support. AND laws are subject to rational basis review in the courts.
4. The "success" examples the author uses come from countries with far less limited governments than that of the United States.
5. Ever heard of Constitutional law? Too many issues to go into here, but I'll name the Establishment Clause. So adopting Maori spirituality as a basis of environmental law is out. (And you can't argue that Western property rights law is based on Christianity.)
6. A river has standing? Cool. What does the river want? How is the river made whole with damage$? This all just seems like a front for environmental groups to sue for damages where they haven't suffered a real injury.
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