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To Throttle Human Thriving Is the Point of “Nature Rights”

Photo: Milwaukee, by Dori, CC BY-SA 3.0 US , via Wikimedia Commons.

Environmentalism is growing increasingly anti-human. The “nature rights” movement epitomizes the misanthropy. If the supposed rights of Nature (with a capital N) were ever enforced legally, human thriving would be throttled by elevating the entire natural world to quasi-personhood status deserving — at minimum — equal consideration with humans.

Moreover, nature rights laws generally allow anyone to sue to enforce nature’s supposed rights, which would mean that human enterprise would be subject to lawfare by the most extreme environmentalists.

Milwaukee County has jumped on the bandwagon. From a formal “Resolution Supporting the Nature Rights Movement”:

WHEREAS, major bodies of water within Milwaukee County, including the Menominee River, Milwaukee River, and Fox River as well as Lake Michigan, provide essential biodiversity and wildlife habitats; and
WHEREAS, these bodies of water require a “rights of nature” protection, which will help Milwaukee County to be the healthiest in the State of Wisconsin due to its restoration as a natural wonder; and
WHEREAS, the “rights of nature” policy is symbolic in nature, which recognizes Milwaukee County’s bodies of water as integral and essential to the environment, as this policy returns rivers and lakes to its their natural purpose; and
WHEREAS, the Committee on Community, Environment, and Economic Development, at its meeting of September 11, 2023, recommended adoption of File No. 47 23-785 as amended (vote 4-0); now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors hereby supports the “rights of nature” movement across waterways and bodies of water in Milwaukee County for protection and ensuring human activities do not interfere with nature and its ability to be healthy, robust, and resilient.

Almost anything we do, at least in some fashion, “interferes with nature,” including controlling vermin, preventing floods, and building housing projects.

Waterways can, should be, and are protected from pollution and improper uses through proper regulations. But granting “rights” to nature — including geological features — profoundly undermines the concept of “rights” itself by removing it from exclusively applying to the human realm. Moreover, if “nature” has rights, so does everything within it, from guppies, to mosquitoes, to weeds.

I know that, in some sense, this is virtue signaling. It is non-binding legally and includes the now obligatory nod to the wisdom of indigenous people. But it is a worrisome sign. Until and unless opponents of such nonsense begin taking the movement as seriously as its supporters do, the nature rights movement will continue to make inroads large and small until human enterprise is throttled — which, of course, is the point.