Environmental Personhood a Solution to Claim Justice for Nature

ARTICLES | Jan 17, 2023
Environmental Personhood a Solution to Claim Justice for Nature

Writer: Nuttawut Kulkaew

Editor: Wittaya Wonglor


Giving legal rights to natural resources is an approach to protecting forests, mountains, rivers, wildlife species to conserve critical wild areas and ecosystems. If natural resources such as forests gain personhood, it is possible to appoint or authorize a lawyer to sue for damages or liability for forest encroachment, especially from unethical corporates invading wild spaces for business. This adds to legal penalties from traditional laws on land encroachment.


Several countries have taken such legislation seriously, such as the controversy over Disney building a resort in the Mineral King Valley. The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit over environmental conservation, blocking the project. The area became Sequoia National Park in 1978. Another case was in 2017 when New Zealand announced the Whanganui River, important to Maori tribes, would be a legal person. Canada views legal personhood for ecosystems as mostly symbolic. It remains unclear how successful these lawsuits can be in gaining adequate, long-term protection of ecosystems. Canada has encouraged local people to act as legal agents or guardians of the environment, increasing the role of indigenous peoples' laws.


Although appointing legal personhood of natural resources has a rare chance of success in many countries, giving the environment rights is an interesting social movement at the local and national levels for conserving biodiversity against projects that destroy ecosystems. In many cases, it has also drawn public attention to the importance of environmental justice by marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples or local villagers who were originally guarding the ecosystems through their spiritual and cultural practices and lifestyles.


Implications for the future:

- Driving for the personalization of forests will redefine human-forest relations. It will associate the social perspective and ecological forest management. It will also affect the foundation of morals, culture, and environment among people.

- If such an idea is developed until it is legalized, the selection criteria for natural resource guardians and the scope of litigation must be clearly defined to prevent bribery of agents and use of the law as a tool for business conflicts between enemies.

- A job in environmental law is a future opportunity for those interested in biodiversity and ecosystem conservation to protect the world from climate crisis apart from doing ESG business or being a politician.




- https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2021/04/22/rights-of-nature-lawsuits/

- https://theconversation.com/rights-for-nature-how-granting-a-river-personhood-could-help-protect-it-157117

- https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2021/07/06/rights-of-nature-conservation

- https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07329113.2021.1904579

- https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/45590/20220322/human-rights-animal-rights-but-what-about-the-rights-of-nature-itself



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