How nature gains more and more rights

In Spain, a law was passed at the end of last year that made Spain’s Lake Mar Menor a legal entity. The water has become polluted due to the discharge of mining waste and agricultural fertilizers. Three committees, made up of citizens, government agencies, and scientists, now monitor the lake’s importance. They are the keepers of the river. With the law, Spain became the first European country to grant rights to nature. The initiative came after a large signature petition signed by more than 300,000 citizens.

Elsewhere in the world, people have long made nature independent. Knowledge of the indigenous population often has a significant impact on the politics there. In 2017, under the influence of the Maori people, the Whanganui River in New Zealand was recognized as a legal entity, as first river In the world. The nearly 200-mile waterway was declared a living organism in law, “from the mountains to the sea, with all its physical and metaphysical elements.” By the way, the river cannot be held responsible if someone drowns in it.

Māori have been acting as one of the guardians (“faces”) of the river for five years now. Soon after the law was introduced, the local government wanted to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the river. They forgot to consult the local Māori (hapū) people, which delayed the project by two years. The hapū added all kinds of improvements, such as protected fishing areas, speed limits on nearby roads and public toilets.

In the end, the hapū had few problems with the bridge itself, but mainly with the process that preceded it. Before the river could be recognized as a person, they had to constantly plead to protect the river from the ever-changing politicians. Now the government has to go locals first with their river plans, and the health of the river is of paramount importance.

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