Whanganui River, New Zealand
Glimmers of hope. Details here.
Mind you, human rights tend to be honoured a lot more on paper than in practice. So it will be with river rights. Rivers, lakes, oceans and their defenders will continue to face countless challenges and battles. But at least now two rivers have some legal rights to defend.
Meanwhile in the USA, rivers have no more rights than do sewers or highways, both of which purposes they serve. In sharp contrast, corporations in the USA won long ago the same legal rights as individual citizens, which they deploy to commit horrible crimes against humanity and nature, including the poisoning of rivers, lakes and oceans. Of course, unlike actual human persons, corporations regularly get away with murder.
In Canada the picture isn’t much better. The late Conservative regime decimated environmental protections for all but 159 lakes and rivers in this country, leaving more than 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers wide open to destruction. Breaking election promises to reverse their predecessors’ crimes against nature, instead the current Liberal regime is deferring to corporate pressure to maintain the status quo.
In such a grim context, the hard-won court decisions in New Zealand and India represent a huge step forward, rare signs that we can act sanely and respectfully in relation to the natural world, our life support system.