I have written here previously of several attempts to enact “nature rights” kinds of laws, specifically targeting water, in the State of Florida. The threat became so real — with Orange County passing a “rights of water” ordinance — that a law was enacted at the state level prohibiting granting rights to nature.
That didn’t stop a “lake” in Orange County from suing. But the case was just tossed based on state preemption. The same thing happened in Ohio when a local election (with a 9 percent voter turnout) granted rights to Lake Erie.
Good. That’s how it is done.
But this victory should not make us sanguine. “Nature rights” and “animal rights” activists will keep trying. And there is no denying they are making incremental inroads. Six rivers and two glaciers have “rights.” More than 30 U.S. cities have granted rights to nature. So have several Latin American countries’ statutes and/or constitutions, and so ruled a court in India. An Argentine court granted “nonhuman personhood” to an orangutan. The New York Court of Appeals denied personhood to elephants, but only by a 7–2 margin. When that was tried on chimps in the same court just a few years before, it didn’t even get a hearing. Step by step, inch by inch.
The time is now for all U.S. states and the federal government to enact laws that restrict “rights” to the human realm and deny direct legal standing to any animal or aspect of the natural world in any court of law. As the Florida lawsuit’s outcome shows, such laws could stop these subversive movements cold.
That would not stop debate about environmentalism and animal welfare. Nor should it. But it would allow debate on these important issues to be approached from the correct perspectives that also includes cost–benefit considerations and the importance of human thriving and economic well-being.