Photo by Brett Weston, Corbis

Last week our friends at the Earth Island Journal published a cover article on the Rights of Nature in their spring issue. The spread, titled Natural Law: From Rural Pennsylvania to South America, a Global Alliance is Promoting the Idea that Ecosystems Have Intrinsic Rights; takes a deep look at the evolution of the movement to grant legal rights to nature from its origins in the small community of Tamaqua Borough, Pennsylvania; to the ground-breaking developments in Ecuador in 2008 when that nation became the first to recognize nature’s rights in its national Constitution; up to the present moment as environmental and climate justice activists gear up to advocate for nature’s rights at the Rio+20 United Nations Earth Summit in Brazil this June.

This critical disclosure comes at an important time both for the movement and for Mother Earth. Rising temperatures and sea levels resulting from climate change, deforestation, mountaintop removal, and harmful methods of oil and natural gas drilling which are forever altering natural landscapes are just a few of the ill affects on the environment from human activities that come to mind.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible for us to continue to evolve in a way that is sustainable for people and the planet – but in order for this to happen we must first change the way we view our human relationship with nature, away from one that is property-based and towards a rights-based model of balance. This is the driving idea behind the Rights of Nature.

As author Jason Mark says in the article,
“This is happening. It is occurring through the work itself, as the changes in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Pennsylvania force some people to re-imagine how they think about, and feel about, the world we live in. Over time, the once- marginal starts to sound mainstream, even ordinary.”

Global Exchange’s Community Rights program is working with allies here in the US and around the world to put forward the call for nature’s rights and to say loudly and clearly that the time for a new approach to environmental protection is now – not later.

•    Stay updated on the upcoming events at Rio+20 as well as our work organizing locally in California communities by joining our e-mail list-serve.

•    Live in the Bay Area? Attend the upcoming Rights of Nature seminar hosted by the Women’s Earth & Climate Caucus April 13th-14th in Marin County.

•    Want to learn more about Rights of Nature and the emerging global movement? Get a copy of the book, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Contact Kylie Nealis ( or by phone at 415.575.5551

•    Find out more about Rights of Nature work internationally by visiting the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature website.

•    Read an article by Shannon Biggs in Tikkun Magazine ‘A Community Perspective on the Rights of Nature’