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Spring 2024 Reading Group

Rights of Nature

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Can nature have rights? Should nature have rights? What should these rights entail, and can granting or recognizing rights of nature help to stop the planetary degradation that characterizes our current era, the Anthropocene? The idea of rights of nature (RoN) may seem farfetched, but it is already a reality in many jurisdictions around the world, including in the U.S. The growing prominence of RoN can be seen as a response to our ongoing destruction of nature, combining liberal rights with assertions by indigenous peoples of their right to live in harmony with nature. The leading RoN example is Ecuador, where the constitution (2008) specifically provides for RoN in Article 71: “Nature, or Pacha Mama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes.” In a series of decisions, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador has elaborated on Article 71, granting rights to a river, a forest, and, most recently, a wooly monkey named Estrellita. In this Reading Group, we will study rights of nature in the U.S., Bangladesh, New Zealand, Ecuador, Brazil, and other jurisdictions where efforts to establish RoN are ongoing. We will be asking the questions listed at the top of this description, seeking to understand RoN conceptually and to assess its viability as an advocacy and litigation strategy.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: : January 24, February 7, February 21, March 6, March 27, and April 10.