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Can Plants Have Human Rights?

11:19 AM, Apr 13, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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According to a new treaty being drawn up by Bolivia at the U.N., "Mother Earth" would be given "the same rights as humans, including the right to life, to pure water and clean air." Both Ecuador and Bolivia have already incorporated the "rights of nature" into their constitutions.

This may be, well, crazy -- but it shouldn't be too surprising. Wesley J. Smith wrote about this movement in THE WEEKLY STANDARD back in 2008:

This doctrine of human exceptionalism has been under assault in recent decades from many quarters. For example, many bioethicists assert that being human alone does not convey moral value, rather an individual must exhibit "relevant" cognitive capacities to claim the rights to life and bodily integrity. Animal rights ideology similarly denies the intrinsic value of being human, claiming that we and animals are moral equals based on our common capacity to feel pain, a concept known as "painience."

These radical agendas have now been overtaken by an extreme environmentalism that seeks to--and this is not a parody--grant equal rights to nature. Yes, nature; literally and explicitly. "Nature rights" have just been embodied as the highest law of the land in Ecuador's newly ratified constitution pushed by the country's hard-leftist president, Rafael Correa, an acolyte of Hugo Chávez. ...

The potential harm to human welfare seems virtually unlimited. Take, for example, a farmer who wishes to drain a swamp to create more tillable land to better support his family. Now, the swamp has equal rights with the farmer, as do the mosquitoes, snakes, pond scum, rats, spiders, trees, and fish that reside therein.

And since draining the swamp would unquestionably destroy "nature" and prevent it from "existing" and "persisting," one can conceive of the farmer--or miners, loggers, fishermen, and other users and developers of natural resources--being not only prevented from earning his livelihood, but perhaps even charged with oppressing nature.

The inspiration for Ecuador's granting of rights to nature was an American extremist environmental group called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which presses to "change the status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities."

Be sure and read the whole thing. Smith has also posted some additional thoughts on the issue over at First Things.

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