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The Rights of Nature are not at all opposed to Human Rights. Moreover, without a doubt, both groups of rights complement and enhance each other. The day will soon come to build a joint declaration of rights for Humanity and Nature, as both are rights for life.
Breaking traditions can be more complex than jumping into one's shadow. Accepting Nature as a subject of rights falls into such complexities. It is tolerated to recognize almost human rights to legal persons, but not to non-human life.
Throughout history, each extension of rights was previously unthinkable. The emancipation of slaves or the extension of rights to African Americans, women, and children were rejected as absurd. Even the acceptance of Human Rights has demanded and still demands a permanent struggle. In short, the recognition of the “right to have rights” has always been achieved through political struggles to change those views, customs and laws that denied those rights; struggles that become a powerful pedagogical source that requires conceptual clarity and a willingness to change.
Thus emerges, with force, the transformative challenge of recognizing the Rights of Nature, moving from a mere anthropocentric approach to a socio-biocentric one that recognizes the indivisibility and interdependence of all forms of life and that, in addition, maintains the force of the obligations and standards of Human Rights. The purpose is to strengthen and expand the Human Rights regime, complementing and deepening them with new generations of rights, in this case the Rights of Nature, as part of the permanent emancipation of the peoples.
The enjoyment of Human Rights cannot be separated from a healthy environment. Environmental degradation leads to serious violations of Human Rights, the right to health, food, water, housing, work. For example, the expansion of the extractive border tramples people and communities that defend the land and the environment, affecting bodies, subjectivities and territories. The most affected are the Guardians of Mother Earth, especially the indigenous peoples who live in an indissoluble interdependence with Nature and recognize in their lives the intrinsic value of Mother Earth.
An important opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights explicitly confirms the intrinsic relationship between the enjoyment of Human Rights and a healthy environment and goes further by specifying that:
“The right to a healthy environment as an autonomous right, unlike other rights, protects components of the environment, such as forests, rivers, seas and others, as legal interests in themselves, even in the absence of certainty or evidence about the risk to individual persons. It is about protecting nature and the environment not only because of its connection with a utility for the human being or because of the effects that its degradation could cause on the rights of other people, such as health, life or personal integrity, but also for its importance for the other living organisms with whom the planet is shared, which also deserve protection in itself "
This requires strengthening the principle of responsibility of human beings to preserve the natural cycles of Nature and recognize their relevance. But we must go further. We must understand and accept, in practice, that human beings are Nature. We cannot continue to exploit and destroy it. Nature can exist without human beings, but we cannot live without our Mother Earth. In this regard, the Encyclical Laudato Si is clear:“We ourselves are land. Our own body is made up of the elements of the planet "And Pope Francis goes further, when he affirms that "We are included in Nature, we are part of it and we are interpenetrated."
The Rights of Nature are considered as ecological rights, unlike environmental rights, which arise from Human Rights. These ecological rights seek to protect life cycles and evolutionary processes, not just threatened species or natural areas. They look at ecosystems, communities, not individuals. Ecological justice aims to ensure the persistence and survival of species and their ecosystems, as groups, as networks of life. Beyond compensating humans for environmental damage, it seeks to restore affected ecosystems. In reality, the two justices must be applied simultaneously: the environmental one for people, and the ecological one for Nature; they are structurally and strategically linked justices.
The transition from "Object Nature" to "Subject Nature" has begun. Notion that lives in the perceptions of indigenous peoples for a long time. We can even speak of a "wild right", typical of Mother Earth. Of course, we have to highlight the great boost given in the Montecristi Constituent Assembly in Ecuador, when the Rights of Nature were constitutionalized for the first time.
Understanding that environmental collapse is a global issue, it is time to promote the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature, from the proposal made at the Earth Summit of Tikipaya, in Bolivia, in 2010. It is also urgent to establish an international tribunal to punish environmental crimes, against people and Nature, as proposed at the same Summit.
In short, the Rights of Nature are not at all opposed to Human Rights. The day will soon come to build a joint declaration of rights for Humanity and Nature, as both are rights for life.
By Alberto Acosta