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Movement to give ‘nature’ same rights as humans gains steam in US

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Movement to give ‘nature’ same rights as humans gains steam in US


Legislation that grants nature similar rights to humans is becoming more popular across the globe, with multiple countries and localities approving nature rights laws and several more considering similar legislation.

Panama, Ecuador and Bolivia have all moved to recognize the rights of nature with national legislation, a movement that has gained traction around the world and in the United States, with 10 states having some form of legal protections for nature, according to a report by CBS News.

The most recent country to join the movement was Panama, where the new law was used to shut down one of the largest copper mines in the world.

Behind the effort in that country was Callie Veelenturf, a 31-year old American marine biologist from Massachusetts who has spent much of her career studying and advocating for the protection of sea turtles.

But a legal battle to protect herself from sexual harassment in 2018 became a turning point for Veelenturf, who realized nature did not have the same legal recourse she had as a human.


Callie Veelenturf was in a legal battle to protect herself from sexual harassment in 2018 but realized nature did not have the same legal recourse she had as a human.
Callie Veelenturf was in a legal battle to protect herself from sexual harassment in 2018 but realized nature did not have the same legal recourse she had as a human. Callie Veelenturf

“I realized that we can’t defend the rights of nature as I had just defended my rights, because nature largely has no rights in our legal systems,” Veelenturf told CBS News.

The marine biologist said a book, “The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World,” helped solidify the idea in her mind, causing her to make it “a mission” to advance the concept across the globe.

“It prioritizes the needs of the ecosystems and not the needs of humanity,” Veelenturf said.


"I realized that we can't defend the rights of nature as I had just defended my rights, because nature largely has no rights in our legal systems," Callie Veelenturf said.
“I realized that we can’t defend the rights of nature as I had just defended my rights, because nature largely has no rights in our legal systems,” Callie Veelenturf said. Callie Veelenturf

The marine biologist brought the idea to Panama’s first lady and parliament, where it gained widespread support and eventually became law.

The law has since been used by the country’s Supreme Court to shut down a $10 billion copper mine that opponents claimed would threaten tropical jungles and water supplies.

In the U.S., Seattle recently recognized the rights of salmon to pass through the city’s dams, according to the CBS News report, while North Carolina has begun considering giving rights to the Haw River ecosystem.

The trend has been encouraging to Veelenturf, who argued humans need “a different way of interacting with nature.”

“It’s just exciting every time. It never gets old,” Veelenturf said. “What we’re doing now is obviously not working, and so this provides a different way of interacting with nature. I think we’re at a point now where it’s worth a shot.”