The Global Movement for Nature Rights: Recognizing the Legal Standing of the Environment

The Global Movement for Nature Rights: Recognizing the Legal Standing of the Environment

Legislation granting nature similar rights to humans gains momentum worldwide

Legislation that recognizes the rights of nature, granting it legal standing similar to that of humans, is gaining popularity across the globe. Countries like Panama, Ecuador, and Bolivia have already enacted national laws to protect the environment, while several states in the United States have implemented similar measures. This movement, driven by passionate individuals like marine biologist Callie Veelenturf, aims to prioritize the needs of ecosystems and challenge the anthropocentric legal systems that have traditionally neglected nature’s rights.

A Turning Point: The Fight for Nature’s Rights

Callie Veelenturf, a 31-year-old American marine biologist, has dedicated her career to studying and advocating for the protection of sea turtles. However, her own experience with sexual harassment in 2018 became a pivotal moment that led her to question the legal protections afforded to nature. Veelenturf realized that while she could defend her rights as a human, nature lacked similar legal recourse. Inspired by the book “The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World,” Veelenturf made it her mission to advance the concept of nature rights globally.

Panama Takes the Lead

Veelenturf’s efforts found fertile ground in Panama, where she presented the idea to the first lady and parliament. The concept gained widespread support and eventually became law. Panama’s Supreme Court has already utilized this legislation to shut down a $10 billion copper mine, which opponents argued would threaten tropical jungles and water supplies. The country’s recognition of nature’s rights marks a significant step forward in protecting the environment.

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The United States Joins the Movement

The movement for nature rights has also made headway in the United States. Seattle recently recognized the rights of salmon to pass through the city’s dams, acknowledging the importance of maintaining their natural migratory routes. In North Carolina, discussions are underway to grant rights to the Haw River ecosystem. With 10 states already implementing legal protections for nature, the United States is gradually embracing this paradigm shift in environmental governance.

A Different Way of Interacting with Nature

The growing trend of recognizing nature’s rights is encouraging to Veelenturf and many others involved in the movement. They argue that humans need to adopt a different approach to their interaction with nature, one that prioritizes the needs of ecosystems over human desires. The current methods of environmental conservation have proven inadequate, making it imperative to explore new avenues. By granting nature legal standing, society can foster a more harmonious relationship with the natural world.


The global movement for nature rights is gaining momentum, with countries like Panama, Ecuador, and Bolivia leading the way. Inspired by passionate individuals like Callie Veelenturf, this movement seeks to challenge the existing legal systems that prioritize human needs over the well-being of ecosystems. The recent recognition of nature’s rights in Panama and the United States signifies a shift towards a more holistic approach to environmental governance. As society grapples with the urgent need for sustainable practices, granting nature legal standing offers a promising avenue to protect and preserve our planet for future generations.

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