Earth’s Rights

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Ireland is considering enshrining the rights of nature into its national constitution, a move that if approved could make it the first European Union nation to do so, the BBC reported.

The Irish parliament’s Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action recommended that the government should hold a referendum this month on protecting biodiversity.

This would give elements of nature, such as trees, mountains and rivers, rights similar to those of humans. The proposal also seeks to recognize these elements as entities with rights to exist, flourish, be restored and respected.

It will also recognize the right of any person or organization to defend and enforce those rights on behalf of nature.

The committee suggested holding the referendum before Ireland’s next elections and be accompanied by a “robust public information campaign” to “prevent the spread of misinformation,” the Telegraph noted.

The proposal comes in response to a report from the Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, which urged the government to enforce existing laws to protect Ireland’s environment. The report also recommended holding a referendum to insert biodiversity and the protection of nature into the constitution.

US-based advocacy group the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights – which testified before the committee – welcomed the proposal and called it an “important step forward.”

However, the Irish Farmers’ Association has opposed the modification, contending that it would “significantly increase the strain on already overburdened legal and planning systems as well as infringe farmers’ property rights.”

Elsewhere, Ecuador made similar amendments to its constitution in 2008, while New Zealand granted its Whanganui River legal personhood in 2017.

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