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Rivers Are People, Too

S&H’s spiritual activist, Celia Alario, on the rights of nature.

One of my favorite bumper stickers reads “Nature Bats Last.” And in what could end up being a game changer here in the bottom of the ninth inning for life on Earth, Nature herself got a big boost of batting power in a recent New Zealand court decision.Thanks to the hard work of the Iwi (the local Maori people) and their legal team, the court declared something many of us already believe: that a river deserves to be recognized as Te Awa Tupua, an “integrated, living whole.”The decision gives the Whanganui River a legal voice, a legal identity, and—get this—all the rights of a person when it comes to the law. This means the rights and interests of the river can be fought for and defended in a court of law, with the river holding actual legal standing, or the right to bring a lawsuit based upon its stake in the outcome. So issues that, until now, have been mostly debated as ethical or spiritual considerations change venue to the powerful arena of the law.Imagine—rivers and other precious wild places retaining a hard-charging lawyer and fighting in court against an unsustainable development project or threa …

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