Gaia Goes to Court

Clarice Feldman19 Nov, 2023 2 Min Read
Even the Ganges needs an attorney.

Eijsden-Margraten, a Dutch municipality with about 30,000 residents, voted to have nature "have its say" in court before licenses to construct housing are granted. Interests of  nature and wildlife will be represented by a guardian, "which could be a combination of scientists, environmental organizations and perhaps artists,” according to the mayor. Apparently, the proponents believe the town “is following in the footsteps of 30 states in the United States and two districts in Northern Ireland which have made all nature and wildlife a legal entity in court.”

I’m not aware of any such rulings in the U.S. nor can I find one, though elsewhere this has been the case and it’s not inconceivable that the march to insanity has made footfall somewhere in there. There are examples elsewhere though. "The New Zealand parliament voted to give legal personhood to a river and provided for the appointment of two guardians to represent it. In India a court extended legal personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and the glaciers that feed them."

Domestically, the impetus for such things here seems to have been  set in 1972 by the late Christopher Stone of the University of Southern California law school:

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It is not inevitable, nor is it wise, that natural objects should have no rights to seek redress in their own behalf. It is no answer to say that streams and forests cannot have standing because streams and forests cannot speak. Corporations cannot speak either; nor can states, estates, infants, incompetents, municipalities or universities. Lawyers speak for them, as they customarily do for the ordinary citizen with legal problems... Protection from this will be advanced by making the natural object a party to an injunctive settlement. Even more importantly, we should make it a beneficiary of money awards.

Another law professor, Hong Kong based “bioethicist” Eric C. Ip, has argued much the same with the endorsement of The Lancet:

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The right to a healthy environment cannot be found in the texts of important environmental treaties, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, this right has been enshrined in the constitutions of over 100 nations, located mostly in Africa, Europe, and Latin America, and in regional treaties ratified by at least 130 countries. Such widespread recognition constitutes evidence that this right is becoming part of customary international law.

Per the Stone “guardianship” proposal of the rocks, streams, rivers, forests, wildlife (and Ip’s "the planet"), which the Dutch town accepts, the “guardians” not only will be engaged to represent these entities, but will be entrusted to manage any damages that the administrative authority or court awards -- forever, it seems. No longer will the people through their elected representatives decide such things.

Personally, I prefer the part of Genesis where God grants man dominion over the fish, the fowl, the cattle, and all the earth to a system in which publicly-funded-in-perpetuity guardians of rocks, rivers, streams -- indeed, all of the “interconnected planet” -- have dominion over man.

Clarice Feldman is a retired attorney living in Washington, D.C. During her legal career she represented the late labor leader Joseph ("Jock") Yablonski and the reform mine workers against Tony Boyle. She served as an attorney with the Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations, in which role she prosecuted those who aided the Nazis in World War II. She has written for The Weekly Standard and is a regular contributor to American Thinker.


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2 comments on “Gaia Goes to Court”

  1. Modern Day Eco-Freaks are proof that Liberal Enviromentalism's a form of Insanity and Stupidity

  2. Clarice--
    I taught a class in energy and environmental policy at Metro State University in St. Paul, MN from 1976-80 and assigned "Should Trees Have Standing?" reading to my students.
    Even though I was only in my late 20s when I taught the course, I made it clear to my students that they shouldn't expect to toe the Sierra Club line. Instead, I made it clear to them that their grade would be based on the extent to which the understood the tradeoffs and opportunity costs involved in developing environmental policy, and that "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch".
    Metro State was a non-traditional school, with most of its students in the work force and well beyond traditional college age (in fact, almost all of them were older than me). I hope I got them to think, and indeed there were a handful that I would have encouraged to pursue a career in the field.

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