Congressional Representation for Nature

The lead article in today’s Boston Globe‘s Ideas section is titled “Sued by the Forest:  Should nature be able to take you to court?”  It tells the story of a New England community–Shapleigh, Maine–that voted in its town meeting,

114-66, to endow all of the town’s natural assets with legal rights: “Natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist, flourish and naturally evolve within the Town of Shapleigh.” It further decreed that any town resident had “standing” to seek relief for damages caused to nature – permitting, for example, a lawsuit on behalf of a stream.

This concept of government rights or representation for the environment reminded me of something poet Gary Snyder wrote somewhere.  I went to my shelf looking for Turtle Island but didn’t find it, so I’m stuck with just saying that SOMEWHERE in Snyder’s ouevre is this reference.  The ideas is not new.

I loved it when I first read it, and I love this idea now.

Why not?!  Corporations have the rights and privileges of individuals–it’s called “corporate personhood“–and they have used the Civil Rights Act, for example, to override the democratically determined decision to prevent installation of a cell tower in a small town in Massachusetts.

Yup.  Pretty startling.  So how about “environmental personhood”?

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