Standing up for nature

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” — Henry David Thoreau

There isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t hear of some human rights issue — slavery, human trafficking, FGM, freedom of speech, hate crimes. Frankly, where we’re concerned, the list is endless.

As a former lawyer, and someone who would always fight for the underdog (not very often in the human rights space mind you), it will take a brave person to tell me that as a race we don’t need rights to ensure equality, fairness, respect and of course, most fundamentally, the right to life.

But and it’s a very guilt-ridden but, until recently I’ve never given much thought to a law that protects nature, i.e. mother earth.

Yes, you heard me correct: “Who the hell is standing up for the animals, the plants, the oceans, the atmosphere and everything that gives us life”?

Be honest, I bet you’ve never thought of it that way for if you had, you’d have to find more than a cogent reason to argue your way out of the degradation, wanton destruction and ignorance that’s given rise to mass slaughter of wild animals, unparalleled pollution of the atmosphere and unlimited use of the world’s natural resources.

At least one country has had the foresight to enact a law that gives “a collective subject of public interest [to mother earth]” and Polly Higgins has also introduced the law of ecocide but, frankly, that’s insignificant set against what’s happening globally.

My point though is a simple one; namely, why do we value human rights over the rights of the earth, especially when absent a safe, plentiful and clean planet we wouldn’t (or won’t) exist?

Perhaps it is that the industrial paradigm has so separated us from our connection with nature that we don’t see or feel our interconnectedness but unless we want to hasten our demise, we all have a responsibility to do more to protect nature be that in consuming less or supporting a just cause in this country or overseas and taking action where appropriate. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that nature’s rights sit at a higher level to human rights but we have to recognise “…that human life cannot exist outside of nature” (see Law of Mother Earth of Bolivia).

To my way of thinking, if every country was prepared to enact a law to protect nature or mother earth (the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is not the answer!), I’m absolutely convinced that it would change more than just the statute book.