Objects, geographic features, even animals, don't have rights of their own. Their protection is advocated for by people, for the benefit of people, under our laws. We fight to protect things like these because we value them as people. They don't have inherent rights. Rights come with responsibilities. It's a person-centric view, but what else do we have in our current system? The Constitution talks about individuals, not objects.
I think their time would be better spent advocating for laws that are formulated correctly in the legal framework. Though boring, more effective. I give this low odds of survival in the courts. Why not spend the energy on something that will succeed? This only will leave people disappointed when it gets overturned.
The reason it makes sense to treat those things as if they were a natural person under the law is because it allows for natural people to group their common interest into a single legal entity that is separate from any individual member.
So, take the lake eerie thing. Sure, you could write a law to protect the lake that focuses on natural people and corporations, but if something happens, say an oil spill or algae bloom, then each individual who thinks they are be affected by it would be bringing suit. in the case of a lake oil spill that's possibly hundreds of separate lawsuits for the exact same incident.
Or, the lake could be granted juridical personhood and the law making the same protections could be written based on that personhood. If the same theoretical oil spill or algae bloom happened, there'd only be a single case instead of quite possibly millions.
And that doesn't even begin to affect issues of standing and actual harm. If I'm some poor schmuck getting water from downstream of Lake Eerie and there's an algae bloom or oil spill, it's going to have to be massive for me to be able to prove i've actually been harmed by the spill and that the harm is enough to justify the costs of hiring a lawyer. Otherwise whoever caused the spill is going to either get the case dismissed because i can't prove i was actually harmed because of their spill, or they're going to argue that my actual harm is something like 86 cents because that's how much extra it costs for water filtration, so even with treble damages I'm entitled to less than the price of a large drip coffee.
And even if you think, well, individuals shouldn't be bringing any sort of suit for something like that, it should instead be via the government, the government itself is just another instance of a non-natural person.
The article itself is an editorial piece with scant details. Who is sued? One example is given of a lawsuit on behalf of a river in Ecuador, in which "companies" were sued. Who represents the river? The government? Who is paid the damages? The government? Are trial lawyers involved? What is their fee? Surely no potential for shenanigans there </sarcasm>.
And I'd emphasize, made of people who can have responsibilities. We can regulate a corporation, and the result is real people have to do real work or make real changes somewhere, or the regulation is meaningless. Treating a corporation like a big person makes sense in at least some ways.
You may legislate all you like, but the river is not going to fill out an environmental impact statement in advance of its next flood. It's not a person. It can't have responsibilities.
Basically, I agree with your statement that a river doesn't have personal rights or responsibilities but those people effected by mal-treatment of the river (including, if no one else advocates, a state/local government) should have the right to protect against unrestricted mistreatment.
Nothing that isn't a natural person should be treated like a person, everything outside of an individual should have separately delineated rights afforded to it depending on the type of object it is. We can sanely fix this problem (and citizen's united) by just agreeing to shift some definitions.
Corporations are entities made up of people that have incorporated. Corporations are therefore supported by people. If the people aren't there, a corporation will fall.
Forests don't need people, people need forests. To me, that would make them more important to protect than a corporation. For this reason, suing on behalf of a river seems quite reasonable to me if a corporation can, too.
No, corporations are legal persons created by law, with regard to which which other people (natural, non-natural legal, or a mix) are granted certain rights and privileges, by law.
They aren't made up of people they are made up of laws.
Who can claim to speak for a forrest and not be mere sophists? A hunter, hiker, and a lumberjack all have different interests in a forest. Unless it is privately owned in entirety there is nobody who can claim standing unless the standards are anarchic enough that literally anyone can sock-puppet the entity.
Citation needed, your orders of magnitude are probably off.
If we literally burned every tree that probably would be catastrophic, but most large corporate entities have created more net good than a given forest or lake.
We rely on corporations for food and comfort, we rely on forests for ... maybe oxygen? But from a rationalist perspective, the ideal would be to identify how much forest cover is required and then convert the rest of the land to productive use.
People don't choose to live in forests and visit cities. They choose to live in cities and visit forests. Cities are literally 100% corporate supported, from the infrastructure under the ground to to the tops of the skyscrapers. As far as I'm concerned, people who don't live in cities are disadvantaged by their lack of access to corporate support.
"Forests don't need people". They are firmly rooted here since Devonian age. We came much, much, later. This part is pretty obvious.
"People need forests". Well, maybe not all people. Some people live in the deserts and never see a forest. Some live of goats that graze shrubs, other can rely on their fine petroleum resources, a great substance that keeps alive all cities in the world, and is made of old fores... oh, wait.
You certainly could build a skyscrapper without wood, but not without steel beams. To made steel beams you need molten steel, and to be able to molt steel you need a big bonfire made of carbon that is another thing made with... forests
You still could have a not so modern, old style city. They are made of wood.
No forests? Say bye to the tires of your car (and mountain bike)
And many cities are built around water courses, that is often another forest subproduct...
There is also the not minor issue of the oxygen, of course.
¿Could people live without forests? Yes probably, but our long term survival would be much more fragile.
> most large corporate entities have created more net good than a given forest or lake
"net good?" Perhaps, avoiding the strictly philosophical, you intend to invoke an economic argument wherein the market value of forests or lakes is defined within the bounds of the free market? Such that "large corporate entities'" high economic valuation is "better" than that of a forest? In this context, given that the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest outside of Seattle (many trees, many lakes) is valued at $1 Trillion , this seems like a bit of a reach. But, even then, why make the comparison, especially since...
> we rely on forests for ... maybe oxygen
Wildlife habitat, drinking water filtration, CO2 sequestration, timber production, refugia against climate change, biodiversity reservoirs
Or, if you like: solitude, silence, wild spaces, discovering one's place in an improbable universe
> from a rationalist perspective, the ideal would be to identify how much forest cover is required and then convert the rest of the land to productive use.
"Productive Use" is a dangerous phrase. There's much to say, but I'll let someone else say it.
In an essay ("The Trouble with Wilderness" ) by William Cronon, which I believe you all would enjoy reading, after he finishes dismantling the myth of wilderness in America, he writes: "one of my own most important environmental ethics is that people should always be conscious that they are part of the natural world, inextricably tied to the ecological systems that sustain their lives. Any way of looking at nature that encourages us to believe we are separate from nature––as wilderness tends to do––is likely to reinforce environmentally irresponsible behavior."
Further: "Learning to honor the wild––learning to remember and acknowledge the autonomy of the other––means striving for critical self-consciousness in all of our actions. It means the deep reflection and respect must accompany each act of use, and means too that we must always consider the possibility of non-use. It means looking at the part of nature we intend to turn toward our own ends and asking whether we can use it again and again and again—sustainably—without its being diminished in the process."
> As far as I'm concerned, people who don't live in cities are disadvantaged by their lack of access to corporate support.
As far as I'm concerned, people who do live in cities are disadvantaged by their constant immersion in a world where perverse incentives for corporations (shareholder expectations, government contracts, CEO salaries) define the very environs in which a city-dweller spends their days, rather than the natural world which cradled humanity for hundreds of thousands of years prior to Google and Facebook, to Bechtel and Skanska.
It would be like saying Amazon is worth 100 trillion because of all of the time and money it has saved society.
You're not wrong, but even from a purely philosophical perspective it is not at all obvious that solitude is a greater good than the structures that make up human civilisation - I won't make an argument that forests are bad, but I'm perhaps more making the point that "forests are more important than corporations and deserve greater legal protection" is an opinion that stands in defiance of political reality, and is only supportable with some specific and frankly fringe definitions of good. I'm pretty sure that any definition of good that privileges human wellbeing over animals is going to agree that corporations are a greater good than forests and lakes (notwithstanding that we obviously need some forests and lakes, and that I'm not about to start buying property next to a polluted lake).
We have pretty good polling on what people value in practice. There are people who honestly care more about forests, but they are a minority to the people who downright fear solitude and want more community and human built environment. Biodiversity in particular is a lovely idea until it meets humans in practice, where we actively choose to extinguish it wherever we gather in groups. Very much a NIMBY phenomenon.
> As far as I'm concerned, people who do live in cities are disadvantaged by their constant immersion in a world where perverse incentives for corporations...
The better hospitals, places of higher learning, food and entertainment tend to be in cities. It is quite hard to argue that those things are less important than harking back to the cradle of the natural world that was awful and primitive. A society built promoting the natural world over human endevour would be horrific, barbaric and very hard to defend as more moral or 'good' in any meaningful sense.
People can sue, for damages to the people, not to the lake.
If you sort of say the motivation of the scientific system is to discover "truth", looking back at history you might discover there were a bunch of course corrections to address problems where we fooled ourselfs.
In the same way, I can imagine some course corrections in the legal system to address "externalities" that prevent some problems from being solved.
The corporation was probably the most important invention of all time.
I wonder if similar legal fictions might solve the tragedy of the commons and other problems.
I was told once "Remember. We have a legal system, not a justice system".
I don't think anyone can say we shouldn't try to solve that problem.
That, or the converse argument that there can be anything that has rights of its own, is here presented as an axiom that requires no further proof. However, I don't think it's that self-evident.
If rights come with responsibilities, why do e.g. the mentally disabled have rights - what responsibilities to they confer to them? When someone can suffer, why would they not have a right to minimise that suffering, even if they're "just" an animal?
The Constitution (I assume the US one) was made up by humans, and any rights it confers were conferred by humans. If humans also confer those rights to, say, lakes, those should theoretically be just as valid as others, I'd presume?
it's also interesting, though, that governments and law enforcement are completely willing to treat objects as individuals when they want to confiscate it. my understanding of many civil forfeiture laws is that they "charge" the object with drug trafficking, or whatever, and then take it when the object doesn't mount a vigorous legal defense.
(i'd be happy to be corrected by someone who understands this better than me; I'm just pointing out that it's a related legal issue)
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_forfeiture_in_the_United... :
Civil forfeiture begins when government suspects that a
property is connected with illegal drug activity, and files
a civil action:
The government simply files a civil action in rem against
the property itself, and then generally must prove, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the property is
forfeitable under the applicable forfeiture statute. Civil
forfeiture is independent of any criminal case, and because
of this, the forfeiture action may be filed before
indictment, after indictment, or even if there is no
indictment. Likewise, civil forfeiture may be sought in
cases in which the owner is criminally acquitted of the
underlying crimes ...
— Craig Gaumer, Assistant United States Attorney, 2007
Humans don't either, in the most basic sense. The universe really isn't concerned with our well being. We can argue that our government offer us rights, but the natural world is about to test the validity of that right soon.
We have the option of giving rights to natural objects and spaces, and arguably we have done so with the national Park system. I think we can, and should, do better than this. What form that takes I am uncertain of, but I am hopeful.
You can pursue a private prosecution if you can find a court willing to hear your case.
You would get half of the fine (if any).
The only problem is that the Crown can take over the case if it wants, so you may lose out on your investment if your case is too good.
Other laws let you pursue private prosecutions, but you don’t get a cut, so there’s little incentive.
Is this another name for civil law suit ?
It's not surprising, because we need to manage all the things we interact with and depend on on a daily basis.
Honestly a lake is a pretty trivial and important entity because it's a basic part of human ecosystems.
It's going to get a lot more interesting when we're going to have more discussions about chatbots, fake news, and other non-human agents in similar situations.
Prior "ecological entity rite" proposals I heard were emotional appeals from true believers which sounded superficially good on the surface but made no damn sense. Who exactly can speak for the river with any authority? You say the river wants to be clean and unfished? I say it wants to be pretty and colorful with mine run-off! Those being affected by it have a perfectly solid claim to damages ahead of time and can help bring many parties to the table for nuance.
One example would be to prevent things like different regulations between the US side and CA side that allow for barges to dispose of semi-toxic sludge they collect in the CA side of Lake Huron, since they have to clean it properly in the US side per EPA regulations. No citations for the above but I've heard rumors.
Even more serious is the underwater Line 5 Oil Pipeline that runs parallel to the Mackinac Bridge. A spill in that region affects the entire region, yet only MI and the Trump-led EPA have any decision power as to what to do about it.
Natural bodies transcend political units, and environmental regulations need to do the same, as pessimistic as I am about how realistic that is.
International Joint Commission
the Canadian/U.S. Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries.
And the Great Lakes Fishery Commission: http://www.glfc.org/index.php
Now, there's a small table listing the ones that are safe. (Or perhaps there are none nowadays? I haven't had a fishing license in years...)
The pollution of Lake Erie is a travesty.
I'm trying to link to the section that starts just barely on the page before "Indeterminacy of the Personhood Designation"
If a corporation can be a person for purposes of law, then why shouldn't the resources it wants to exploit be a person for purposes of law as well?
Linked article reminds us that 'In 2008, Ecuador and Bolivia both added Rights of Nature clauses to their constitutions.'
Not a moment too soon. To protect nature is to protect ourselves and our progeny. The same is true for any corporations in any way dependent on extraction (or as they learned to call it 'harvesting').
If people can get profit by making other pay the cost, then there is a perverse incentive for destruction.
Anyone can sue anything. That doesn’t mean the court won’t dismiss it.