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“River Rights” Would Impede Human Thriving

river rights

I don’t quite understand why the news that four rivers in the world, including the Ganges and the Amazon, have been declared by courts to be rights-bearing entities has generated such little reaction. This is no small matter of semantics.

If the current trend continues, “river rights” will exert a tremendously destructive force. The “rights” granted to rivers will be (at least) co-equal to those of humans. Our needs and thriving will be sacrificed to respect the “rights” of geological features. Once again — as happens too often these days — we will have been forced to accede to irrationality that flowing water courses are proper rights-bearers — essentially made to agree (as in the novel 1984) that 2 + 2 = 5.

Rivers’ “rights” will be enforced by radical environmentalists, backed by cadres of trial lawyers, in a campaign funded by rich extremists, aimed at impeding or preventing us from making beneficial use of rivers for all sorts of crucial purposes, ranging from irrigation, to building dams for electricity generation, fishing, and flood control.

You think I worry too much? Judge for yourself. The Earth Law Center, which is very active in the “river rights” cause — which, remember, is succeeding — has published a Universal Declaration of River Rights. From the Declaration:

MOURNING the many rivers across the globe that have already died due to human activities — including those so over-diverted as to no longer flow, those enclosed within pipes and buried under layers of concrete, and those so polluted as to no longer sustain life,

1. Declares that all rivers are entitled to the fundamental rights set forth in this Declaration, which arise from their very existence on our shared planet,

2. Further declares that all rivers are living entities that possess legal standing in a court of law,

3. Establishes that all rivers shall possess, at minimum, the following fundamental rights:

(1) The right to flow;
(2) The right to perform essential functions within its ecosystem;
(3) The right to be free from pollution;
(4) The right to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers;
(5) The right to native biodiversity; and
(6) The right to restoration,

4. Further establishes that rivers shall have their best interests assessed and taken into account as a primary consideration by both government and private entities in all actions or decisions that concern them…

6. Maintains that in order to ensure full implementation and enforcement of these rights, each river shall be entitled to the independent appointment of one or more legal guardians that acts solely on behalf of the river’s rights, with at least one legal guardian being an indigenous representative for those rivers upon which indigenous communities depend.

Anyone who can’t see the tremendous harm that committed radicals, appointed as river “guardians,” can force upon public policy and private actors required to take “into account as a primary consideration” a river’s supposed “best interests,” doesn’t want to look.

Kind of gives the song “Old Man River” a new meaning, doesn’t it? Oh yea: The Earth Law Center will soon launch an “ocean rights” project. Remember, it only takes one judge…

Photo: Ganges River, by Aleksandr Zykov, via Flickr.

Cross-posted at The Corner.