Yaffa Epstein publishes on the rights of nature in Science magazine
9 April 2019
Yaffa Epstein, doctor in environmental law at the Faculty of Law in Uppsala, together with Guillaume Chapron (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), and José Vicente López-Bao (University of Oviedo), writes in Science that the recognition of nature’s legal rights may help address environmental destruction.
One of the most surprising legal developments of the last decade has been the recognition of rights for nature. In just a few years, the idea of endowing nature with rights or legal personhood has gone from absurd to reality in a growing number of jurisdictions. These new rights have led to some judicial wins for nature protection, but thus far have not yielded impressive results. It is yet unclear whether these recent laws and court decisions are the beginning of a new global rights paradigm, or are meaningless words that will soon be forgotten.
In a Perspective article in Science, doctor of environmental law Yaffa Epstein and ecologists Guillaume Chapron and José Vicente López-Bao argue that if these laws and new legal ideas are to succeed, they must be better grounded in both legal theory and ecology. They explain a philosophical argument for the moral rights of nature, and relate these to legal rights for nature. They then identify several issues in implementing rights of nature--not least how to define nature--and argue that however these questions are resolved in various legal systems, the effectiveness of rights of nature laws will depend to a large extent on those systems' ability to integrate ecological knowledge.