Rights of Nature

By Joe Neidhardt

Rights of Mother Earth -Western humans tend to see their rights as more sacred that other living entities. It’s time to shift that thinking 180 degrees.

Our genes are utterly amazing. They have the ability to transform a fertilized egg into a human being. Further, these genes can be turned on and off by our relationships with each other and our environment through a process called methylation.  These changes can be transmitted from mother to her offspring. Children born to mothers exposed to trauma were found to have different patterns of methylation than children born to mothers not exposed.  This suggests that mothers exposure to trauma is passed on to their offspring, giving evidence for intergenerational trauma.  It also suggests that the genetic expression is very connected to our relation to each other and our environment.

When we explore our genetics we also find we share a common structure with other animals, plants, and single-celled organisms to varying degrees. It has been reported that we share 97 percent of our genes with the chimpanzee, 70 percent with slugs, and 50 percent with bananas.  All animal and plant life share common ancestry, which explains our shared genetic structure. Genetically, all life on earth is inherently connected, which means that all life on earth—whether plant, animal, or human, should have rights.  

Humans are part of nature and so the rights of mother earth are inclusive of human beings. When we consider humans as part of mother earth it changes ourhuman perspective such as to view mother earth from an inclusive rather than exclusive position.   

We have been blessed with an evolving brain, memory, emotions, compassion, and an ability to impact other sentient beings through our actions.  This puts us into a position that requires discernment, moral development, and the ability to discern right from wrong.  We also recognize our infallibility, knowing that we can and do make mistakes.  Sometimes these mistakes occur out of ignorance.  We are also prone to view our world through self-serving lenses.  This necessitates a level of diligence in reflecting on our actions to determine the relative goodness of our behaviors.  If we are too narcissistic or self centered we only see our individual selves and fail to see the whole.  This suggests then that we need to consider the rights of nature within the broadest possible context to be inclusive of the earth and all life.


Many countries around the world have laws that protect water and air, that evolve out of property rights and are designed so one person can not adversely affect their neighbor.  These laws stipulate that you cannot create toxic waste that will spread to someone else’s property to devalue that property.  Unfortunately, protecting our environment from this perspective is too narrow and does not view what is being done from the inherent rights of mother earth. Creating laws from the perspective of inherent rights of mother earth broadens our view such that we can see that humans have rights, animals have rights, and ecological systems have rights to exist and procreate.

Extensive lists of Rights of Mother Earth have been formulated.  I have selected a few and added some for your consideration. As we move forward we hopefully can reach some consensus on the Rights of Mother Earth and put these into practice through our moral development, through our laws, and with international agreements. 

With this in mind I will offer ten dictums that might be considered the rights of Mother Earth for your consideration and contemplation.

1.Create balance within and between species so that no one species is so dominant that it destroys others, as in the case of monocultures or human overpopulation. 

2. All species have the right to be protected from unnatural extinction due to such activities of environmental degradation, pollution of air, water, soils, destruction of natural landscapes, hunting or harvesting. Take only according to need, avoid excess, and leave enough for regeneration. 

3. Restore any aspect of our environment that has been damaged and return as much as possible to its original state.

4. Human habitat will be created to honor nature. Natural corridors for other species will be created where older habitat exists and will be considered when new habitat is planned and developed.

5. Humans are a part of nature and are expected to be a part of all landscapes unless their exclusion would not be deemed appropriate because extreme conditions exist, such as the reestablishment of an ecosystem that has been decimated. Humans cannot deny reasonable access to other humans following the dictum that we are part of the land, water, and air, and have the right to share the resource.

6. Mother earth deserves to be understood. Humans are expected to research and better understand ecosystems in order to be better neighbors.

7. Communication exists between plant and animal species and humans are expected to study and better understand this communication in order to create interspecies understanding and harmony.

8. Seek out Indigenous wisdom in groups of people who have a long- standing relation to their local environment to understand their knowledge and their relation with mother earth.

9. Address the two greatest problems to arise in human history, CO2 and methane pollution of our environment and The Sixth Extinction that is in progress.  Provide resources for the purpose of curbing as much as possible the impact of global warming and the extinction of life on earth as it exists today.

10. Recognize that minerals, precious metals, and plant nutrients are all part of nature, and their extraction by mining, growing certain crops, leaching, or drilling must be done within concepts of preservation and harmony within nature. 

Indigenous people have been living by these dictums and can be a source of knowledge.Many groups are also working to better define the principles relative to the rights of Nature. www.therightsofnature.org/    The next steps of creating laws and enforcing them have been started.  www.therightsofnature.org/ecuador-rights/ I also suggest that we begin implementing these principles as individuals as this can go a long way toward raising consciousness, and creating a groundswell.