A New Zealand River Has Human Rights. Now Will Modern Law Come To Its Senses?

Our system of law has the rights issue exactly backward. But humanity is slowly reawakening to the simple logic that Mother Earth’s rights must come before human rights.


Published:

In March, New Zealand passed a bill making the Whanganui River the first river in the world to hold the same legal rights, responsibilities, and liabilities as a human person.

It was a stunning breakthrough in a rights issue that could be a crucial step toward ensuring a human future. In March, New Zealand passed the Te Awa Tupua Bill making New Zealand’s Whanganui River the first river in the world to hold the same legal rights, responsibilities, and liabilities as a human person. For the Maori people, it was the culmination of a 140-year struggle to gain recognition of the river as an ancestor of the tribe.

The victory quickly had a major consequence far beyond New Zealand’s borders.

Only two weeks later, citing the New Zealand law as precedent, a court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand gave the Ganges River and its main tributary, the Yamuna River, the status of living human entities. Henceforth, polluting or damaging these rivers will be a legal equivalent to harming a person.

I learned of New Zealand’s breakthrough from my longtime friend and colleague Shannon Biggs, executive director of Movement Rights and co-founder of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Biggs and her Movement Rights co-founder, Pennie Opal Plant, traveled to New Zealand last November as guests of the Maori to learn and share with the world the lessons of their historic victory. Biggs further elaborates those lessons in her report published in Earth Island Journal.

Humanity is slowly reawakening to the essential truth that nature—the living Earth—is the source of human existence and is essential to our nurture. It is simple logic that the needs of Mother Earth must come before ours.

That, in turn, implies that Earth’s rights must come even before human rights.

This logic has sweeping implications for a modern system of law that gives corporations more rights than people and nature no rights at all. Just as our human existence depends on the health and well-being of a living Earth, the existence of corporations depends on the health and well-being of human society.

So at its foundation, modern law has the rights issue exactly backward.

Significant as New Zealand’s action is, it represents only a first step in an essential rethinking and restructuring of a system of law crafted by the rulers of an Imperial Civilization to secure their own power and privilege. The system is ill-suited to the needs of an Ecological Civilization that is expected to meet the needs of all in a balanced, co-productive relationship with a living Earth.

In our transition from Imperial Civilization to Ecological Civilization, we have much to learn from indigenous people as humanity’s elders—keepers of our human memory of a time when we saw ourselves clearly as part of nature.

Earth cared for us, and we cared for her. We organized around the rivers, forests, and prairies. We depended on them for our means of living. We honored them as our ancestors. This was a time when no one had yet invented an exclusive claim or right to own, destroy, or sell a portion of nature’s territory in disregard of the present or future needs of others.

Living in balance with nature came easily when our dependence was self-evident. Now that, despite our technological sophistication, we have reached and exceeded the limits of Earth’s capacity, shouldn’t our dependence once again be self-evident?

Perhaps the anomalies created by giving a river the rights and liabilities of a living person will force us to rethink and revise the foundational principles of modern law. What is the river’s liability to a person whose lands it floods or the swimmer it drowns? How are the seemingly intractable conflicts between legally proclaimed territorial rights of nature, humans, and corporations to be resolved?

My thanks to the Maori people who persevered to compel us all to address these essential questions.

David Korten wrote this article for YES! Magazine as part of his series of biweekly columns on “A Living Earth Economy.” David is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including When Corporations Rule the World and Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife, Fran, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty. Follow him on Twitter @dkorten and Facebook. As do all YES! columnists, he writes here in his personal voice.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Want To Get “Back To The Land”? You’re Not Alone
10 Indigenous And Environmental Struggles—And How You Can Help In 2017

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

October 22, 2019

The morning gets a glorious sendoff from the Leo Moon’s sextile to Mars. The invigorating aspect has a heartening effect and sets the tone for a fruitful and enjoyable day. Excitement and anticipation are shared with partners and co-workers. Folks tend…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

October 2019

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Are you considering, going through or recovering from divorce? Join us at our free Daytime Divorce Boot Camp, and we’ll help you get into shape! In response to requests from people...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation
180 Wells Avenue
Suite 300
Newton, MA  02459
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Free Evidence-Based Holistic Health Education Program at Wilbraham Senior Center The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation), created and instructed by Michelle...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Are you separated, divorced, considering divorce, or in the process of divorce? Please join us for a special evening intended to help you and your family have a smooth and easy transition through...

Cost: Free

Where:
Burns & Levinson
1 Citizens Plaza
Suite 1100
Providence, RI  02903
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

October 23 & 30, 2019, 7–9pm Instructor: Judith A. Swack, Ph.D. Register at http://www.newtoncommunityed.org Do you have a fear of flying, heights, public speaking or other...

Where:
Needham, MA


Sponsor: Healing from the Body Level Up
Telephone: (800) 310-6549 / (781) 444-6940
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

It's everyone's favorite night! Eat, drink, laugh, dance, connect and meet providers! Women's health seminars  Mini spa treatments  All-natural...

Cost: Free

Where:
Groton Wellness
493-495 Main Street
Groton, MA  01450
View map »


Sponsor: Groton Wellness
Telephone: 978-449-9919
Website »

More information

Are you separated or divorced, considering divorce, or in the process of divorce? Join us at our free workshop to learn how to plan for your finances during divorce discussions and afterward....

Cost: Free

Where:
Kellem Mahoney Family Law & Mediation Group
100 Recreation Park Drive
Suite 201
Hingham, MA  02043
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Attend a brand new class on awaking and accessing your authentic self! We are brought up in a world where it is difficult to know how to connect to, and express our whole and authentic selves....

Cost: $45

Where:
The Graduate Institute
171 Amity Rd
Bethany, CT  06524-3435
View map »


Sponsor: The Graduate Institute
Telephone: 203-874-4252
Contact Name: The Graduate Institute
Website »

More information

Prana Vidya is a powerful Yogic technique, based on scientific principles, that helps us connect to the most fundamental, throbbing energy of the cosmos. The system uses the concept of Chakras, to...

Cost: $40 before Oct 22 ($45 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

We are proud to welcome Swami Maheshananada Saraswati, a world- renowned Yogi to Boston after 10 years.  Swami Mahesh is a wandering yogi from India. He has a degree in engineering and a...

Where:
SOHUM Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street
Suite 108B
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: SOHUM Yoga and Meditation Studio
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

“Consciousness does not just passively reflect the objective material world; it plays an active role in creating reality itself.” —Stanislav Grof MD, from The Holotropic Mind...

Cost: $150. $175 after October 19

Where:
Unity Somerville
6 William Street
Somerville, MA  02144
View map »


Sponsor: Allen Howell, M.Ed. LMHC
Website »

More information

October 26th and 27th Deepen your knowledge and practice of Reiki. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (Master-Teacher) This two-day Level II Training enhances your...

Cost: $250

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Prana is the universal life force, the essence of all motion, and the basis of all manifestation in the Cosmos. It is the essence of life and existence itself. The yogis and the Seers have...

Cost: $45 before 10/22 ($50 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Yoga is a science of total health and harmony. The science of Yoga is dedicated to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing of mankind. A proper approach to yoga brings...

Cost: $40 before 10/22 ($45 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

We are excited in the midst of our favorite holiday season! Join us for an evening workshop preparing your own take home potion and lotions. As we prepare for the close of the next harvest and...

Cost: $30 pre-reg. or $35 at the door

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers — Heaven and Earth
68 Stile Rd.
Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Mount Kailash, the Crown Chakra of the Earth, the abode of Lord Shiva and the Holiest pilgrimage for Hindus! Located at 18,000ft in High Himalayas, Mt Kailash is as real as it is mythical and...

Cost: pay-what-you-want ($20 recommended)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

October 26–27 Weekend workshop with David Dalton, founder of Delta Gardens. Explore the art of vibrational flower and gem essence healing with a master crafter of essences. Email...

Cost: $360

Where:
Roots to Wings
Newbury, MA


Telephone: (603) 601-6929
Website »

More information

October 26–27 Saturday 9:30–10 am registration, 10 am–5 pm class Sunday 10 am–5 pm class This practitioner training takes place over 2 days and offers...

Cost: Course Fee: $450; Recalibration Appointment: $333

Where:
Spirit Dancer Books & Gifts
125 South Winooski Ave
Burlington, VT  05401
View map »


Telephone: 617-366-6042
Website »

More information

With Nicci Goot Build a foundation of essential virtues for developing altruism, compassion and loving kindness for living a life of harmony and joy. 4 session-program

Where:
State of Grace Yoga
104 E. Hartford Avenue, Unit A
Uxbridge, MA
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

We are proud to welcome Swami Maheshananada Saraswati, a world- renowned Yogi to Boston after 10 years.  Swami Mahesh is a wandering yogi from India. He has a degree in engineering and a...

Where:
SOHUM Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street
Suite 108B
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: SOHUM Yoga and Meditation Studio
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags