Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on August 29, 2017 (updated: September 11, 2017)

Leading environmental lawyer David Boyd’s new book delves into the rights of nature

Carolyn WongStaff

Please join the Ecojustice team at the Museum of Anthropology on September 14, 2017, to celebrate the launch of award-winning author Dr. David R. Boyd’s eighth book, The Rights of Nature: a legal revolution that could save the world.

Imagine a world where trees, rivers, birds and wildcats are given the same enforceable rights as humans. No, this idea isn’t a far-fetched utopia; it’s the premise of Boyd’s latest book, a remarkable read about the transformational power of giving rights to nature, and the challenges we face to guarantee the future of our planet and its species. Be sure to put The Rights of Nature on your end-of-summer reading list for an inspirational read on the future of environmental law!

What are the rights of nature?

The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature describes the concept as the “recognition that our ecosystems — including trees, oceans, animals, mountains — have rights just as human beings have rights.”

With the recognition of those legal rights comes a responsibility for humans to enforce them.

In his new book, Boyd chronicles how cultures and laws are transforming how we think about and protect species and the planet. He draws on many real-life examples — including New Zealand’s Te Urewara Act — which have granted ecosystems legally enforceable rights, and describes groundbreaking lawsuits in which judges have recognized the rights of endangered species to exist.

Boyd explores the legal revolution unfolding in courtrooms, legislatures, and communities worldwide — a revolution he believes could save the world. We share his optimism and vision for the future of our planet.

You’re invited!

We hope you can join us at the book launch, where Dr. Boyd will be joined by Haida artist and environmental lawyer Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson to lead a discussion on the rights of nature.

Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017
Time: Reception at 7:30 pm; discussion at 8:00 pm
Venue: Museum of Anthropology at 6393 Northwest Marine Drive at UBC
Cost: $10 (museum admission)

Amazonia: The Rights of Nature

Come to the book launch early and check out Amazonia: The Rights of Nature, an exhibition that will deepen your understanding of how Indigenous knowledge is inspiring solutions to present-day environmental problems.

Here’s a sneak peak of what to expect:

The exhibition space is engulfed by a rainforest soundscape. The flow of water. A bird’s call. The distant buzz of insects. A human voice in joyous chant. The rainforest as a living, pulsating place.

A huge map of South America visually represents the 7.8 million square kilometres which the Amazon rainforest covers. The rainforest is so vast it covers the entire northern part of the continent and spans nine countries.

A wall of bold black statistics reads that humans have been living in the Amazon for more than 11,200 years. More than 2.3 million Indigenous people live there today, so do millions of insect species and tens-of-thousands of plant species. Deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate, mostly illegally in Peru, and almost always close to roads built for oil exploration in Brazil.

At the center of the room, cabinets are filled with cultural objects as varied as the people living in the Amazon basin. The objects are inspired by nature and express Indigenous worldviews. One item, a beaded bandolier adorned with the wing of a red-and-green macaw, reflects the Asháninka worldview in which birds traverse both the visible and invisible realms.

Throughout the cabinets there are stark reminders of threats facing people who live in the Amazon, and its forests and rivers. Some cases are lined with soybeans, cowhides, or bullets. Written accounts describe past and current horrors. Centuries of enslavement. Forced labour in the rubber trade. Ongoing resistance to massive hydroelectric projects.

From one of several hammocks strung up in the space, I reflect on panels with excerpts from the constitutions of nine South American countries.

A clause from Bolivia’s constitution inspires me:

“Everyone has the right to a healthy, protected and balanced environment. The exercise of this right must be granted to individuals and collectives of present and future generations, as well as to other living things, so that they may develop in a normal and permanent way.”

The exhibition Amazonia: The Rights of Nature is on display at the Museum of Anthropology until January 28, 2018.

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