What If Trees Were People Too?

What If Trees Were People Too?

With their bewildering variety of birds, butterflies, orchids, ferns and primates, the cloud forests of Ecuador are more alive than almost anywhere else on Earth.

So it makes sense that these forests now benefit from something previously reserved for people: constitutionally protected rights.

In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognise the rights of nature in its constitution. Last year those rights helped protect the Los Cedros reserve from a mining company with its eye on the gold and copper hiding in its rocks.

Environmental groups asked the country’s Constitutional Court to step in, and in December 2021, the court ruled that the forest’s rights must be respected. Los Cedros is not the only natural entity to seek legal support to stand up to the destructive forces of capitalism. Around the world, rivers, animals, plants and ecosystems are gaining protections, thanks to what’s known as the ‘rights of nature’ movement.

It’s a movement grounded in familiar principles of justice: you can’t rob someone’s house and just get away with it, so why should you be able to rob a forest of its resources? If crimes like murder, arson, and trespassing come with criminal sentences, what’s the difference when those same crimes are committed by companies against animals, trees or rivers?