Giving Nature Its Own Rights Might Avert Future Oil Disasters

By Brandon Klein of Wired Science

Striped dolphins in oiled water from Wired Science

Hundreds of lawsuits have flowed from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, filed by citizens, states and the federal government. And someday, perhaps, the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystems will also file suit.

Environmental philosophers and other people say that biological communities — ecosystems, habitats, species and populations — have a right to exist. They’re not just valuable because they’re someone’s property. Environmental lawyers say courts should recognize this right, and could allow people to represent nature as legal guardians or trustees…

“There is room in our legal system to expand the concept of guardianship,” said Patricia Siemen, executive director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. “The inlets and the marshes, the beaches that are damaged, species of birds that are threatened — each one may have its own guardian, with a right to speak for the interests of that being, and the legal authority to speak for that being.”

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