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Nature Rights: “It Can’t Happen Here”?

Wesley J. Smith

The “It can’t happen here” crowd had better start paying more attention to the mainstreaming of the “nature rights” movement. Not only has Science — one of the world’s foremost science journals — published in its favor, but now former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, a very influential voice on the left, has endorsed the extreme ideological agenda. From his column:

Well, what if we did give all wildlife a fighting chance against the destructive firepower of profiteers who so carelessly ravage their habitats and kill them off? Of course, we can’t arm nature with guns, but we could recognize that other species and ecosystems are living creatures with intrinsic legal rights to exist and flourish, thus giving nature its day in court to defend its well-being.

Like us humans, the lakes, forests, wildlife, etc. could have legal status to sue and be represented by lawyers to protect themselves from mindless exploitation, injury and death. This Rights of Nature concept is already being applied in such countries as Ecuador and New Zealand, and more than three dozen U.S. cities and towns have passed grassroots ordinances acknowledging that various natural resources in their areas have inherent rights to take polluters and other despoilers to court.

Please understand that “nature rights” isn’t about preventing pollution, protecting endangered species, or conserving threatened ecosystems. We already have laws for that.

The Anti-Human Impulse

Rather, it is anti-human in seeking to provoke economic decline. Nature rightists yearn to thwart any and all significant development — no matter how responsibly pursued or beneficial to humans — by empowering anyone and everyone to sue to protect nature’s putative right to “exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.” That’s akin to a  right to life.

With Hightower now endorsing, it won’t be long before “nature rights” becomes a regular part of the political conversation. At that point, it will too late to apply a simple statutory prophylactic.

It’s very frustrating to me that the left takes nature rights very seriously, but the center and right don’t. That’s how radicalism progresses: Reasonable people continue to assume that they would never go that far! But they will. They are.

Photo: Lake Erie, by Jason Zhang [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Cross-posted at The Corner.