universal law

admin | 成都桑拿
14 Sep 2019

RESPECT: New Zealand’s beautiful Whanganui River has some pretty serious legal rights. Picture: Tourism New ZealandThere is so much bad press about the environment almost daily – dire predictions of climate change and species extinction for example. While devastatingly true, it is hard to not desensitise or feel like I’m only one person what can I do, or it’s all too hard.
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That’s why, when I heard the party-popper good news last week from our neighbour across the sea, my heart leapt in hope at the possibility of an emerging new worldview about the natural world.

In a world-first decision, a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being. A Maori tribe of the north island has fought for the recognition of their river – Whanganui – as an ancestor for 140 years. Hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin – the third longest river in New Zealand – awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law, bringing the longest-running litigation in New Zealand’s history to an end.

The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it, the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same. The Whanganui River, will be represented by one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown.

The Act uses the Maori language about the river having its ownmana — its own authority, and its ownmauri or life force, and an identity in and of itself.

The implications of this decision are potentially revolutionary. The Maori tribes regard themselves as part of the universe and at one with and equal to the mountains, the rivers and the seas. Instead of human sovereignty over the environment, this law radically embraces the indigenous wisdom of nature itself having an equal right to life as us.

It is a decision in line with the Bolivian government’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth passed in 2010. The law declares both ‘Mother Earth’ and life-systems, both human communities and ecosytems, as titleholders of inherent rights, such as the rights of water and air to remain clear and uncontaminated.

Ecuador was the pioneer, enshrining rights for nature in its 2008 constitution. In 2011, a team of lawyers used the country’s new laws in court toforce a government to repair damage to a river from a road-building project.

Currently the n Earth Laws Alliance is pushing for ‘s rivers, forests, ocean waters, flora and fauna to have their own legal rights, in a movement that has become known as ‘wild law’.

“Wild law suggests we look at the world as a community of subjects – that we are only one of many players in the ecological sphere,” says founder Michelle Maloney.

I might call on John Lennon’s Imagine to help expand our sense of possibilities here – a lucky country for all.

Claire Dunn is the author of My Year Without Matches: Escaping the city in search of the wild. You can contact her at [email protected]成都夜总会招聘.au

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