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Personhood, Not Property: Granting Ecosystems Legal Rights

This article contains the content from the 7/16/2020 Bioneers Pulse newsletter. to get the newsletter straight to your inbox!

Indigenous Peoples have historically considered nature a living, breathing entity, deserving of gratitude and respect. Modern law is finally starting to catch up. The rights of nature movement is spreading across the world, mobilizing tribes, communities and nations to grant legal personhood and protections to nature — from the rainforests of Ecuador, to the Whanganui River in New Zealand, to the in Athens, Georgia.

By endowing the world around us with a social and political cachet, this approach allows for critical conservation of the biosphere in the face of climate change, while honoring the fundamental principle that we’re all connected.

This week, we illuminate the achievements of organizations driving this movement forward, and discuss the long road ahead toward protecting Earth’s essential ecosystems.

Rights of Nature — Codifying Indigenous Worldviews into Law to Protect Biodiversity

In deep contrast to the “human vs. nature” dichotomy underpinning much Western thought, Indigenous Peoples share a worldview that humans are a part of nature’s interconnected systems. It’s not surprising that Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of a growing movement to acknowledge the legal “Rights of Nature.”

This is a panel conversation featuring world-renowned Indigenous environmental leaders, who share their approaches to this game-changing strategy for protecting Mother Earth and Indigenous rights.

Casey Camp-Horinek: Aligning Human Law with Natural Law

According to Casey Camp-Horinek, a respected elder and leader of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, for as long as Mother Earth and Father Sky have blessed all life on Earth with sustenance, there has been a Sacred System honored by all species. Only humans have strayed wildly from these original instructions to live in harmony with all and to recognize our place in the Great Mystery.

Now, she says, in this crucial moment, we must find our way back to Balance if we are to avoid the unraveling of the web of life.

Advancing the Legal Rights of Nature in a Time of Environmental Crisis

Indigenous people, communities, countries, and courts have continued the struggle to secure the highest legal protections for nature. Learn how you can become part of this growing movement in this conversation with Mari Margil, Executive Director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights and a leading figure in the global movement to enshrine Rights of Nature in jurisprudence; and Bill Twist, co-founder and CEO of the .

Brand New: Bioneers Rights of Nature Media Collection

Rights of Nature legal frameworks could hold important keys to shifting the system and transforming the law from treating nature as property to a rights-bearing entity on whose behalf people have legal standing as trustees. Hear from some of the world’s foremost experts on Rights of Nature in our new media collection.

Dan Wildcat on Rights of Nature | Bioneers Indigenous Knowledge

Dan Wildcat, Ph.D., discusses what we need to do to save Mother Earth, beginning with changing our view of our place on the Earth. This speech was part of the Indigenous Forum at the 2012 Bioneers Annual Conference.

About the Bioneers Rights of Nature Project

Rights of Nature legal frameworks could hold important keys to shifting the system and transforming the law from treating nature as property to a rights-bearing entity on whose behalf people have legal standing as trustees.

Through a generous grant, Bioneers is partnering with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to offer Rights of Nature workshops and trainings to Indigenous communities in the US over the next two years. Part of Bioneers’ role is to help support intertribal trainings and to explore with our Native allies these alternative legal strategies to “occupy the law.”

The Latest from Bioneers.org:

  • ” | Raphael Sperry, architect and president of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, leads national campaigns to ban the design of spaces that violate human rights. In this Bioneers talk, he discusses how engaged scientific, technological and design professionals can make social justice, public health and environmental impacts the cornerstone of decisions made in their work.
  • ” | As administrators plan the post-pandemic return to school, outdoor learning is emerging as an opportunity to pair social distancing with the benefits of giving students access to nature. We interviewed Sharon Danks of Green Schoolyards America and Craig Strang of the Lawrence Hall of Science about how they’re helping to lead the movement for K-12 outdoor education.
  • ” | This Bioneers podcast episode features V — the author, artist and playwright formerly known as Eve Ensler. She explores the process of resolving her problems with her abusive late father by writing her recent book, The Apology.
  • ” | In his new book, “Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures,” biologist Merlin Sheldrake shares the wisdom he’s learned from studying fungi — a diverse kingdom of organisms essential to how our world and minds work.

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