Basic sciences are essential for establishing the Rights of Nature
The issue of humanity’s relationship with the environment is pressing, and there is a need to move beyond traditional human rights, to embrace the concept of the rights of Nature. Human activities have had a destructive impact on the Earth, and there is a urgency of shifting our perspective to prioritize Nature’s rights.
The historical development of the discourse between humans and Nature traces back to Ancient times. The story of Adam and Eve, in the Old Testament, serves as a metaphor for the destructive consequences of human avarice on Nature. In the Mahavansa, in 600 BC in Sri Lanka, Arahant Mahinda preaches that humans are merely custodians of Nature, and Nature has its inherent rights that rulers cannot determine.
Anthropocentrism vs ecocentrism
There are two contrasting approaches to environmental protection: anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. Anthropocentrism focuses on human-centric protection of the environment, primarily centered around human rights related to the environment. In contrast, ecocentrism takes a more holistic approach that encompasses humans and nature as part of the Earth’s interconnected spectrum. This shift from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism reflects the evolving nature of the rights discourse, moving from human rights to rights of nature.
There is an integral relationship between a healthy environment and the enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, and sanitation. A clean and healthy environment is crucial for human well-being. However, addressing contemporary environmental challenges, such as climate emergencies, deforestation, and habitat destruction, requires a broader perspective than human rights violations alone can provide.
A fundamental shift of perspective
The concept of the Rights of Nature is introduced as a solution to these challenges. Rights of Nature advocates for a fundamental shift, placing nature at the core of our legal and ethical framework. It asserts that ecosystems have the right to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve without human-induced destruction. This concept grants ecosystems legal personhood, enabling them to defend themselves in court with the representation of a guardian.
To bolster the argument for the Rights of Nature, basic sciences and scientific evidence have a critical role. Legal arguments seeking justice for nature must be supported by well-established scientific data, especially in proving the link between environmental damage and its causes. The absence of such evidence has been a significant hurdle in cases advocating for the Rights of Nature.
There is a need to redefine Nature within non-traditional legal parameters, through for instance the shift from legal personhood to legal naturehood for justice seekers in courts. Basic sciences and objective analysis, based on scientifically proven data, are essential to guide preventive actions and minimize harm to Nature.
We face a global environmental challenge, today, and should adopt a more inclusive and ecocentric approach to address these issues. All individuals are invited to contribute, in whatever capacity, to make the Earth a safer place for future generations, echoing the sentiment of healing the world and celebrating World Environment Day in 2023.