Extending environmental rights could help prevent biodiversity loss, says environmental lawyer | Media Pyro

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The Present24:10The push to protect the environment and wildlife and legal rights

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Researchers are considering all possible ways to reverse the decline in wild populations – including extending legal rights to nature.

“It is a project to understand that the environment should not be considered as a property for us, but should have basic rights, like human rights, and for better or worse, corporations have rights,” said the environmental lawyer Grant Wilson. of the International Law Center in Durango, Colo.

At the heart of this concept is the “human” nature. While people are afforded basic protections such as the right to life and the right to liberty, “it’s a commodity, and nature has no protection,” Wilson said. The Present Matt Galloway.

“Environmental rights therefore seek, in many cases, to extend human rights or rights to rivers, forests, lakes and mountains.”

Wilson’s comments come after a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Using data from the Zoological Society of London, WWF found that global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have declined by an average of 69 percent in between 1970 and 2018.

Andrea Reid, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and a native of the Nisga’a Nation, wrote a chapter in the report that focuses on indigenous leadership in conservation. .

He said he has spoken to many seniors working in British Columbia’s fisheries who said they have seen a change in access to salmon populations in their lifetimes.

He said these demographic shifts are particularly difficult for indigenous communities because “they are connected to our languages, our speech, our rituals, our practices, our laws.”

“This is a highly cultural fish, and the effects of reduced access to freshwater systems have huge consequences for us,” he told Galloway.

2020 is the lowest sockeye salmon return in BC’s Fraser River since record keeping began in 1893. (Chris Corday)

Condemning environmental disease

One way to stop the drivers of biodiversity loss, Wilson says, is to change existing laws.

“It is because of the weakness of our current legal system that we allow environmental degradation,” he said. “We’re never going to restore the environment to health, but it’s kind of like letting it live in this gray area between existence and collapse.”

That’s why he believes it’s important to extend the right to live and give back to nature.

“The right to save the river means we have to start looking at ways to save the sediment population so that the environment can run smoothly, for example,” he said.

An example of this process can be seen in Ecuador, which was the first country to recognize environmental rights in its constitution in 2008.

In 2017, Ecuador granted the mining company Empresa Nacional Minera two mining permits, as well as the environmental permits needed to mine in the Los Cedros cloud forest, a protected area known for its biological type.

But in 2018, local authorities issued a legal remedy to ban all mining in Los Cedros. Three years later, “the constitutional court said that this forest has a right to exist, to be restored,” Wilson said.

This project is not limited to one country. Wilson said there was an international movement to make ecocide — “a crime against the earth itself” — an international crime under the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

“There’s an emerging definition … and basically, serious harm or widespread harm to the environment, which gives us a tool to prosecute the worst offenders of environmental harm. “

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Indigenous education systems

According to Wilson, delaying human intervention in the environment does not mean that corporations stop making products. Rather, it is the “reciprocity and renewal relationship with the natural world.”

“This is something indigenous peoples all over the world have understood: we can take it, but we have to give it back,” he added.

Reid said policies and procedures “that embrace all of these systems and don’t stop people from having conversations about protecting the world around us” need to be put in place, especially here in Canada.

“For a long time, we’ve been, as a country, trying to promote conservation issues around economies,” he said. “Often, these priorities work to contradict each other in some respects.”

“So we have to be very creative in the solutions we bring forward – but we don’t really want to think about a lot of conservation measures and think about the various economic costs.”

He added that he would like to see indigenous environmental rights, such as the restoration of indigenous peoples’ control over fish, be included in the discussion.

“There are educational systems, relationships that have been built across generations that can provide valuable knowledge to do things in the past, which have allowed these populations to thrive,” he said.


Produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo, Paul MacInnis and Samira Mohyeddin.

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