Rights of Nature: Why it Might Not Save the Entire World

In: Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law
Julien Bétaille University of Toulouse Capitole,

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The advent of Rights of Nature (RoN) marks a new paradigm shift in the philosophical approach to nature. As such, the concept has generated enthusiasm amongst environmentalists and legal scholars. This is not surprising since granting legal personhood to nature seems to present itself as a relative easy fix for the multitude of deficiencies of “modern” environmental law. However, when critically assessed, many of the underlying assumptions justifying a shift towards rights-based approaches to nature are open to challenge. In this paper, which takes a more critical stance on the topic of RoN, it is submitted that also the much-criticized modern environmental law is moving towards a recognition of the intrinsic value of nature, puts breaks on property rights, offers remediation actions for pure ecological damage and also increasingly grants environmental ngos wide access to courts. Moreover, on a second level, it is argued that RoN are not a legal revolution and that many of the problems Rights of Nature tries to cure – such as a lack of enforcement – will simply re-emerge if not adequately assessed within this novel paradigm.

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