New Constitutional Rights of the Natural Environment

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Ecuador has become the first country to grant constitutional rights to the natural environment. On Sept. 28, 2008, nearly 70% of voters voted for a new constitution that – among other things – gives rights to rivers, forests, plants and animals. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, based in USA, helped draft these new protections.  Their views are worth to point out: most laws define nature as someone’s property, forcing environmentalists to prove extensive damage before regulations can be put in place.
A rights-based approach, it argues, reverses that burden, putting the health of ecosystems first. As Clay Risen from the NY Times mentions, the scope of nature’s rights is unclear and it remains uncertain how a country as poor as Ecuador can protect those rights; however, lawsuits against oil and gas companies are expected.  Furthermore, Spain announced its support for granting legal rights to gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans, while Switzerland appointed an ethics panel  for protecting plants’ “reproductive ability.”
PictureThe Nature Conservancy in Ecuador