1972 The Southern California Law Review published law professor Christopher Stone’s seminal article, “Should trees have standing – toward legal rights for natural objects.” Stone described how under the existing structure of law, nature was considered right-less, having no legally recognized rights to defend and enforce.
1989 Professor Roderick Nash, published The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics in which he explains how, throughout history, the right-less – slaves, women, others – have struggled to expand the body of legal rights to include themselves. Nash provides a context for how and why the body of rights is moving in the direction of expanding to include nature.
2001 Thomas Berry published The Origin, Differentiation and Role of Rights in which he described how all members of the Earth community possess inherent rights.
2003Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice, was published. Authored by South African attorney Cormac Cullinan, with Thomas Berry, he opens up a new front on the Rights of Nature – adding a significant spiritual and moral element to the legal and historic discussions begun by Stone and Nash.
2006 The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) worked with the small community of Tamaqua Borough, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, as it sought to ban waste corporations from dumping toxic sewage sludge in the community. CELDF assisted Tamaqua to draft a Rights of Nature law which banned sludging as a violation of the Rights of Nature. With the vote of the Borough Council, Tamaqua became the very first place in the United States, and the world, to recognize the Rights of Nature in law.
2008 In September, the people of Ecuador voted in support of the proposed Constitution; hence, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature in its national constitution.
2009 On April 22nd, the UN General Assembly, at its 63rd session proclaimed 22 April “International Mother Earth Day” (A/RES/63/278) and the Bolivian president, Evo Morales Ayma delivered a statement at the General Assembly on the declaration of International Mother Earth Day (A/63/PV.80)
2010 In April, Bolivia held the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth which resulted in the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. Following the conference, Bolivia submitted the declaration to the U.N. General Assembly for its consideration.
In August, the first Report of the Secretary-General on Harmony with Nature was published (A/65/314).
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature was formed at a meeting held in Patate, Ecuador, with founding members from Ecuador, USA, Africa, Australia, Asia and Europe.
In November, an ordinance recognizing the Rights of Nature was passed unanimously by the City Council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of a ban on shale gas drilling and fracking. This the first major city in the U.S. to codify the legally enforceable Rights of Nature.
Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth.
In December, the UN General Assembly, at its 65th session, the second Resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/65/164) was adopted. It requested the Secretary General to host the first Interactive Dialogue to commemorate International Mother Earth Day, issue a Second Report on Harmony with Nature and start developing the Harmony with Nature website.
2011 The first Rights of Nature lawsuits were decided in Ecuador under the country’s constitutional provisions, upholding the rights of ecosystems. The first case, heard by the Provincial Court of Justice of Loja, featured the Vilcabamba River as the plaintiff. Thus, the river itself was able to defend its own rights to ‘exist’ and ‘maintain itself’ – as it sought to stop a government highway construction project that was interfering with the natural flow and health of the river. The court ruled that the project be stopped.
The UN General Assembly, at its 66th session, adopted the third Resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/66/204).
In August, the second Report of the Secretary-General on Harmony with Nature (A/66/302) was published.
A campaign was launched in Nepal to advance the Rights of Nature. Today, Members of Parliament are considering a Rights of Nature constitutional amendment.
2012 Bolivia adopted its Law Under the Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well. Passed by Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly, the law recognizes the Rights of Mother Earth in statutory law.
The national government of New Zealand reached an agreement with the Whanganui River iwi, and local Maori people, to recognize a legal persona for the Whanganui River.
In August, the third Report of the Secretary-General on Harmony with Nature was published (A/67/317).
A campaign was launched in India by Ganga Action Parivar and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance-India to recognize rights of the Ganga River and drafted the National Ganga River Rights Act. New Delhi declined this petition.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) adopted a policy to incorporate the Rights of Nature in its decision-making processes.
In December, the UN General Assembly, at its 67th session, adopted the fourth Resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/67/214).
2013 The campaign for the European Citizens Initiative for the Rights of Nature was launched. This initiative allows citizens to present proposals to the European government for consideration.
The UN General Assembly, at its 68th session, adopted the fifth Resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/68/216).
The fourth Report of the Secretary-General on Harmony with Nature was published (A/68/325).
2014 The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature sponsored an International Gathering on Rights of Nature and held the world’s first Rights of Nature Tribunal in Quito, Ecuador presided by Vandana Shiva (Navdanya-India).
Judges: Tom Goldtooth, (Dine’/Dakota, IEN-USA); Alberto Acosta (Ecuador); Elsie Monge (Ecuador); Tantoo Cardinale (USA); Atossa Soltani (USA/Iran); Blanca Chancoso (Kichwa -Ecuador); Julio César Trujillo (Ecuador); Cormac Cullinan (South Africa).
Cases: Chevron-Texaco (Ecuador); 2) BP spill (USA); 3) Yasuní (Ecuador); 4) Great Coral Reef (Australia); 5) Condor Mirador (Ecuador); 6) Fracking (USA), 7) Persecution of Defenders of Mother Earth (Ecuador) 8) GMOs and 9) Climate Change.
The New Zealand Parliament passed the Te Urewera Act, finalizing a settlement between the Tuhoe people and the government. The Act recognizes the Te Urewera – a former national park, of more than 2,000 square kilometers – as having “legal recognition in its own right”.
The Colorado Community Rights Network proposed a state constitutional amendment which would authorize communities to establish the Rights of Nature in law.
The UN General Assembly, as its 69th session, adopted the sixth Resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/69/224).
The fifth Report of the Secretary-General on Harmony with Nature was published (A/69/322).
In December, the Second International Rights of Nature Tribunal was launched in Lima during the COP20, presided by Alberto Acosta (Ecuador).
Cases: Yasuní (Ecuador); Chevron-Texaco (Ecuador); BP (Gulf of Mexico); Fracking (USA/Bolivia); Condor Mirador (Ecuador); Conga – Cajamarca Mine (Peru); Climate Change and False Solutions; Great Barrier Reef (Australia); Defenders of the Earth– Bagua (Peru); 4 Basins- Corrientes (Peru); Belo Monte (Brazil); and REDD.
2015Sweden’s Riksdag considered a motion to create a commission to prepare a proposal on how the Rights of Nature can be incorporated into Swedish law.
In May, Pope Francis launched the encyclical Laudato Si, “On Care For Our Common Home” which critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, and laments environmental degradation and climate change. The call that he makes for a unified swift in global action is the basis for Rights of Nature.
On Abril 11th, a Special Tribunal Audience was held for Yasuni, presided by Boaventura de Sousa Santos
On August 15th, a Special Tribunal Audience was held for Yasuni, presided by George Caffentzis
On October 15th, a Special Tribunal Audience was held for the Great Barrier Reef, presided by Brendan Mackey.
The UN General Assembly, at its 70th session, adopted the seventh resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/70/208).
The Sixth Report of the Secretary-General on Harmony with Nature was published (A/70/268).
The Third International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris during COP21 presided by Cormac Cullinan (Wild Law – South Africa).
Judges: Tom Goldtooth (USA), Alberto Acosta (Ecuador), Osprey Orielle Lake (USA), Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria), Ruth Nyambura (Kenya), Damien Short (UK), Felicio Pontes (Brazil), Terisa Turner (Canada), Atossa Soltani (USA), Christophe Bonneuil (France), Phillippe Desbroses (France) y Dominique Bourg (Suiza).
Cases: Climate Change; Financialization of Nature / REDD; GMOs, Defenders of Nature; Mega Hydroelectric Plants (Brazil); oil exploitation in Ecuador (Yasuní and Chevron) and presentation of new cases (Corralejas Colombia; 570 hydro power dams in Eastern Europe; Gold mining in Galicia, Greece & cyanide spill in Romania; Lack of int’l coherence in ocean “management”; Shell in Nigeria + Tar Sands in Canada).
2016 On February, the Green Party of England and Wales adopted a Rights of Nature policy platform. The Greens in Scotland have taken similar steps.
In September, the General Council of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin approved an amendment to their tribal constitution to recognize the Rights of Nature. The full Ho-Chunk membership will vote on the amendment in 2017.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that the Atrato River possesses rights to “protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration”, and established joint guardianship for the river shared by indigenous people and the national government.
A Special Tribunal Audience was held in April 30th on the San Francisco Bay-Delta Ecosystem with Pennie Opal Plant, Liz Husked, y Gary Mulcahy, Tim Stroshane.
The UN General Assembly, at its 71st session, adopted the eighth Resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/71/232).
The first Experts’ Summary Report on Harmony with Nature addressing Earth Jurisprudence was published (A/71/266).
2017 The New Zealand Parliament finalized the Te Awa Tupua Act, granting the Whanganui River legal status as an ecosystem.
The High Court of Uttarakhand in India issued rulings recognizing the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers, glaciers, and other ecosystems as legal persons with certain rights.
Mexico City passed new Constitution including provision requiring Rights of Nature law such as the recognition and regulation for “broader protection of rights of nature formed by all its ecosystems and species as a collective entity subject of rights”.
In October, the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, USA took the historic step to add a statute to enact the Rights of Nature.
Lafayette, Colorado, in the USA, enacted the first Climate Bill of Rights, recognizing rights of humans and nature to a healthy climate, and banning fossil fuel extraction as a violation of those rights.
Colorado River vs. State of Colorado was filed in the U.S. federal court. In this first in the nation lawsuit, an ecosystem is seeking recognition of its legal rights.
On October 27th, the US Rights of Nature Symposium was held in Tulane University, New Orleans, and was sponsored by CELDF, The Myrin Institute.
On the 7th and 8th of November, the Fourth International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Bonn-Germany was held during COP23, presided by Tom Goldtooth (Turtle Nation -EUA)
Judges: Alberto Acosta (Ecuador), Osprey Orielle Lake (EUA), Simona Fraudatario (Italia), Fernando ”Pino”Solanas (Argentina), Shannon Biggs (USA), Cormac Cullinan (South Africa), Ute Koczy (Germany), Ruth Nyambura (Kenya)
Cases: Climate Change (false energy solutions); financialization of nature; water deprivation in Almería – Spain; Defenders of Mother Earth; Lignite Mining in Germany; threats to the Amazon (Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia-Tipnis and French Guyana); implications of free-trade agreements to Nature.