Should Rivers Have Rights?

business_ethics_highlights_2 The piece below is about a proposal to accord certain rights to rivers — that is, to treat them as the kinds of things that can have rights of their own, rather than merely resources for humans to use. As the author notes, the proposal seems unlikely to stand up in court. But does it make sense philosophically? The reasoning being used is this: “If a corporation has rights, the authors argue, so, too, should an ancient waterway that has sustained human life….” The problem is that there is a good reason to think of corporations having rights, namely that according corporations certain rights is essential to protecting important human interests. For example: a corporation’s property rights are an indirect way of protecting the rights of the corporation’s owners (or shareholders, if it has any). And attributing rights to the corporation is much more efficient than expecting thousands of shareholders independently to defend ‘their’ little piece of the corporation. Rivers, on the other hand, are public goods, and their protection is arguably better defended in other ways.

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LINK: Corporations Have Rights. Why Shouldn’t Rivers? (by Julie Turkewitz for NYT)

Does a river — or a plant, or a forest — have rights?

This is the essential question in what attorneys are calling a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit, in which a Denver lawyer and a far-left environmental group are asking a judge to recognize the Colorado River as a person.

If successful, it could upend environmental law, possibly allowing the redwood forests, the Rocky Mountains or the deserts of Nevada to sue individuals, corporations and governments over resource pollution or depletion. Future lawsuits in its mold might seek to block pipelines, golf courses or housing developments and force everyone from agriculture executives to mayors to rethink how they treat the environment….

What do you think?


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2 comments

  1. Wilson Mande

    My answer is YES rivers have rights.
    Having rights implies that others are not supposed
    to interfere with those rights. It has become increasingly
    Clear that planet earth can “die”. If it died it would die
    with humanity. Yes humanity’s life is a fundamental right.
    If river Nile died, God forbid, living beings from Uganda
    to Egypt would be negatively affected. The right of the
    river is intertwined with the right to life of other living
    Beings especially the humans.

    • If they only have rights because they’re useful to humans, some would argue those aren’t really *rights*. The rights of humans don’t depend on them being useful to anyone else.

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