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”?



  1. July 20, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    This is the best thing i have read all week/month. One of the many creative ways we can outsmart the FCC playing quarterback for the telecoms with the 1996 telecommunications act that prohibits questioning the placement of a cell tower for health reasons. Their population reduction, mind control scheme will take some of us out but when more people realize what is going on taking a cell tower out by whatever means necessary becomes an act of self defense and survival. I imagine at some point this argument can be defended in court.

  2. Kathleen Kirk said,

    August 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    This is a fascinating concept! Thanks for posting it so I can think about it! I heard on NPR yesterday about a proposed “tax” on plastic grocery bags that would encourage people to bring their reusable cloth bags to the gorcery store. I have been doing that whenever possible! Several recent art exhibits have reminded us of the trouble with plastic bags! Perhaps the environment will find a way to sue us on this plastic bag issue.

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