“So, what would a radically different law-driven consciousness look like? …
One in which Nature has rights … Yes, rivers, lakes … trees … animals.
How would such a posture in law affect a community’s view of itself?”
– Christopher Stone, American criminal justice expert
“[It is] to balance the rights of people against the rights of animals and the needs of an ecosystem.”
– Daniel Goleman to the Dalai Lama, 2018
“THIS WE KNOW: THE EARTH DOES NOT BELONG TO MAN.
MAN BELONGS TO EARTH.”
– Chief Seattle Puget Sound Suquamish
About Rights of Nature
It seems now, on planet Earth, that “Rights of Nature” revolve around giving Nature space?
Boulder Rights of Nature is 10 years old. It was probably, in its inception, ahead of the times.
Rights of Nature is today an integral piece of the current conservation movement. Yet in most places in the United States Nature is still treated as property: legally it is a commodity. Pollution and environmental destruction are not illegal in this country. Our current environmental regulatory laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, National Environmental Policy Acts, Wetlands Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty, Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, Surface Mining Control & Reclamation Act, and others, simply regulate how much can be exploited by whom.
Boulder started acquiring open space for the mountain park system in the 1890’s. Boulder County today is made up of 50% public lands. Boulder Rights of Nature (BRoN) is working to get “rights of nature” established as law in one or more jurisdictions in Boulder County. (Contact us to see a draft copy of our Ordinance.)
Here then is a sampling of the realities for the natural world — in the U.S. and worldwide.
Half of natural ecosystems are now destroyed.
Only 20% of the world’s wild ecosystems (biotic communities) remain intact and undisturbed.
80% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity is stewarded by indigenous peoples, even though they make up less than 5% of the world’s population. — Wild.org
In terms of habitats, the deepest loss is of wetlands, of which 83% have been drained since 1700.
97% of tall grass prairie and 50% of short and mixed grass prairie have been tilled under.
Less than 4 percent of the ocean is protected.
3% marine areas are free from human pressure.
Two-thirds of the marine environment has also been changed by fish farms, shipping routes,
subsea mines and other projects.
80% fisheries were fully exploited between 1950-2000.
The lead cause of wildlife loss is land development.
The global wildlife population has fallen by 60% since 1970. (World Wildlife Fund)
The world has seen an average 68% drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian populations since 1970.
North America has a 33% biodiversity loss since 1970; Latin America and the Caribbean 94%; Africa 65%; Asia Pacific 45% and Europe & Central Asia 24%. — World Wildlife Fund 2020 Living Planet Report
More than a quarter of species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are threatened with extinction.
The world loses a species about every ten minutes.
A total of 1 million species are at risk of extinction.
E.O. Wilson has predicted that 25% wild species will survive to the year 2100.
A study suggests that just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and undisturbed habitat. — The Guardian
More than 95% U.S. land in the lower 48 has been modified.
A century ago, only 15% of Earth’s surface was used to grow crops and raise livestock.
Today, more than 77% of land (excluding Antarctica) and 87% of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities. — Nature
75% of rivers and lakes are used for crop or livestock cultivation.
50% all rivers worldwide have been dammed.
Iowa, North & South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota have all lost 99% pre-European grasslands.
40% of land (which is ice-free) is given up to agriculture & grazing; 45% for animal feed + biofuel.
Grazing areas for cattle account for about 25% of the world’s 29% ice-free land.
Trees are the largest and longest living organisms on the planet: trees still cover near 1/3 global land.
95% of the original U.S. forests have been cut.
The Amazon rainforest produces and absorbs 1/5 oxygen the world over.
The boreal forests hold 190 years of global emissions at 2019 levels.
In just one hour, the Earth catches enough solar energy to power the world for a year.
2 in 5 amphibian species are at risk of extinction.
40% or more insect species are at risk of extinction.
The wild population of vertebrates worldwide is down 60% from 50 years ago.
Plant extinctions are 500 times background rate: 40% plants and fungi are at risk of extinction.
75% mammals are endangered by human activity and threatened by loss of forest habitat.
95% of the biomass (living weight) of all mammals on Earth’s land surface is now in humans and their livestock.
Of every 10 invertebrate wild animals that roamed Earth 50 years ago only 3 stand today.
Reefs cover just 1% ocean floor yet support 25% fish species.
Global numbers of sea birds have dropped 70% since 1950.
According to the National Audubon Society, nearly half of North American bird species are at risk of losing habitats by 2080 due to climate change.
A study in 2019 revealed North America had lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970. Almost 30% of the total population, with declines in both common and rare species.
Grassland birds were down more than 50% and shorebirds by around one-third.
EMISSIONS & POLLUTION
Airplanes cause 30 times the greenhouse emissions of rail and 5 times that of trucks.
In 2014 Americans drove 344 million miles every hour in the U.S.
3-8 parking spaces exist for every single car.
Food production equals 25% global greenhouse gas emissions.
Grazing areas for cattle account for more than 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Since the 1050’s light pollution has increased 400%.
The growth of plastic production is twice that of the global economy.
Every year, more than one million birds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting or becoming ensnared in plastic or other marine pollution.
3 tons of concrete per person are produced every year worldwide.
In 2018 ~228 million Americans watched video content at a rate of 80 minutes daily —
that accounts for 1.3 billion kg/year co2 emissions.
75 percent of fresh water resources are devoted to farming and fishing.
1 cotton T shirt requires 5,000 gallons water; 1 pair jeans 2900 gallons.
If fashion production maintains its current pace and mode,
demand for water would surpass world supply by 40% by 2030.
“Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.” - Ansel Adams
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.
When we see land as a community to which we belong we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
— Aldo Leopold