RIGHTS OF NATURE ADVOCACY
Diversity of life in the Ecuadorian Amazon - Photo via Emily Arasim
‘Rights of Nature’ is a framework and legal system based on the recognition and honoring of the Earth’s fundamental and inviolable right to exist, live, thrive, evolve and regenerate.
The majority of the world’s legal frameworks treat nature as property, meaning that life-giving rivers, forests and mountains are seen as objects to be sold and consumed. Legal systems built on the premise of Rights of Nature challenge the idea that natural communities and ecosystems are property to be exploited endlessly by humans, and instead recognizes the Earth as a living, rights-bearing entity.
Environmental and social justice advocates have long been seeking a tool which would enable communities affected by climate change and environmental degradation to gain recognition for the harms done not just to human interests, but also to ecologic ones. A Rights of Nature framework requires that those responsible, including corporate and governmental actors, be held fully accountable for negative impacts on Earth systems.
Rights of Nature have been formally included in the Constitution of Ecuador and in nationwide laws in Bolivia, and have been adopted in local ordinances successfully in diverse communities across the U.S. Rights of Nature laws and related forms of Earth Jurisprudence are also active in New Zealand, Columbia, Australia, Sweden, Nepal and other regions, as the Rights of Nature movement grows.
Struggles and advocacy to implement the laws in these places, and newly enshrine them in more communities, remain ongoing.
Rights of Nature defines the relationship of humanity and nature as interdependent, and allows us to express our deep respect and care for our Earth in modern structures of law. It is a framework that can, in part, help to restore the ancient and life-sustaining concepts that have been obscured by dominant and exploitative social, political, legal and economic structures.
WECAN International acknowledges that Indigenous Peoples worldwide have already lived in accordance with the principles encapsulated by the Rights of Mother Earth for millennia. Not only have they survived radical changes in environmental conditions, but also they have thrived and created some of the richest, healthiest and longest living cultures on Earth.
Hand in hand with our advocacy for Rights of Nature is thus an emphasis on the importance of Indigenous wisdom in guiding the development of Earth Laws. It is vital to support intercultural dialogue, led by Indigenous voices, on the meaning, the implications and the correct implementation of Rights of Nature - and to uplift various political struggles faced by Indigenous peoples all over the world in defending their ancestral homelands from cultural and environmental destruction.
WECAN Rights of Nature Advocacy & Trainings
Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director) leads a workshop on Rights of Nature at the Climate Action Zone in Paris during COP21
Within the Rights of Nature framework, WECAN International is advocating for an Earth-respecting cultural narrative, of “restore, respect, replenish” to replace the narrative of “domination, depletion and destruction” of Nature and our diverse communities.
Since the organization's inception, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has carried forth the Rights of Nature framework through diverse advocacy efforts; online and on-the-ground trainings and workshops; and advocacy during United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP negotiations in Durbin, Warsaw, Lima, Paris, Marrakesh and Bonn.
Watch the Rights of Nature Press Conference held at UNFCCC COP25 in Madrid Spain, co-hosted by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and WECAN International with Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation Councilwoman; Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN Executive Director; and Nnimmo Bassey, environmental activist and Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation.
Read the report co-written by Movement Rights, Indigenous Environmental Network and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network - ‘Rights of Nature and Mother Earth: Rights Based Law for Systemic Change’.
Read our feature articles exploring the importance of Rights of Nature and the leadership of Indigenous women of Ecuador:
Explore resources from our WECAN online ‘Rights of Nature and Community Rights: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’ trainings here (2015) and here (2016).
Learn about our event, Rights of Nature and Systemic Change in Climate Solutions, held in New York City during the 2014 UN Climate Summit and People’s Climate March
WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, additionally serves on the Steering Committee for the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance in San Francisco, California.
Areas Of Focus:
History of Rights of Nature and global movement building
Respecting and learning from Indigenous Peoples wisdom about living in harmony with Nature
International movement for Rights of Nature and challenging current environmental laws and climate policies
Tools for developing local Rights of Nature ordinances
Connecting Rights of Nature with Indigenous, human and women’s rights
Rights of Nature as a tool for building new economic structures and alternatives to market-based climate solutions
‘What would Rights of Nature look like in your community?’ – Planning and strategizing for action at the local level
Rights of Nature Tribunals and Rights of Nature online trainings
Collaboration with the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Tribunal judges at the 2017 International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Bonn, Germany - Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International
WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and has worked extensively within the Alliance to organize and present Rights of Nature Tribunals and other events and actions over the past years. WECAN International additionally serves on the Steering Committee for the International Rights of Nature Tribunals.
The ‘Rights of Nature Tribunal’ is a unique, citizen-created initiative that gives people from all around the world the opportunity to testify publicly on destruction of the Earth and their communities.
Tribunals feature internationally renowned lawyers and leaders for planetary justice, who hear cases addressing issues such as climate change, GMO's, fracking, mega-dams and violence against defenders of the land, offering judgments and recommendations for reparation, mitigation, restoration and prevention of further damages and harms based on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Tribunals give voice to violations of the Earth’s rights, and provide a platform for envisioning, planning and implementing an alternative legal framework for living in harmony with the Earth.
Recent Events & Initiatives Include:
5th International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Glasgow, Scotland (2021)
International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Santiago, Chile (2019)
International Rights of Nature Symposium, Quito, Ecuador (2018)
4th International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Bonn, Germany (2017)
3rd International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Paris, France (2015)
2nd International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Lima, Peru (2014)
1st International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Quito, Ecuador (2014)
Global Rights of Nature Summit, Ecuador (2014)
Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International) and Pablo Solon (Fundacion Solon) present a Rights of Nature press conference inside COP21
Members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, including Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN), celebrate the publication of their book on Rights of Nature in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations.
Additional Rights of Nature Resources:
[REPORT] Movement Rights and the Indigenous Environmental Network - Rights of Nature and Mother Earth: Sowing Seeds of Resistance, Love and Change
[REPORT] Earth Law Center - Fighting for Our Shared Future: Protecting both Human Rights and Nature Rights
DemocracyNow! – Vandana Shiva and Maude Barlow on the Rights of Mother Earth
[VIDEO, English]: Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and Tribunal Story
[VIDEO, Espanol]: Alianza Global por los Derechos de la Naturaleza y El Tribunal de Etica
[VIDEO] - Recognizing the Rights of Nature: Shannon Biggs & Maude Barlow on the Laura Flanders Show
[VIDEO] -UNFCCC COP23 Press Conference, Report Back from the Rights of Nature Tribunal in Bonn: Foundations for Systemic Change in Climate Solutions
[VIDEO] - UNFCCC COP23, Indigenous Rights and Rights of Nature: Foundations for Systemic Change in Climate Solutions
[VIDEO] - UNFCCC COP20 Press Conference, Rights of Nature Tribunal
[VIDEO] - Judges Statement Osprey Orielle Lake, Paris International Rights of Nature Tribunal
[VIDEO] - Chevron and Fossil Fuel Industry – Bay Area Peoples’ Tribunal on Rights of Nature
[VIDEO] - CELDF - So Your Community is Going to be Fracked, Mined, Factory Farmed, or fill in the blank…
[ARTICLE] - Who Speaks For The Trees? Driving Nature’s Rights Into Law