The Rights of Nature: Theory and Practice
This volume has shown that the interplay between the theory and practice of environmental politics is rarely straightforward. In this chapter I will present an idea that is seen as unorthodox even at the theoretical level, but which has nonetheless been implemented. In 2008 Ecuador adopted a new constitution that pioneered rights for nature. This case might seem to have come out of nowhere, but there are theoretical, as well as practical, precedents that informed it. This chapter is concerned with discussing the idea of rights for nature, and it will do so in the following steps. Firstly, I will introduce the idea of the rights of nature and outline from where its conceptual toolkit arises. Secondly, this idea will be followed by a discussion of the recently established rights for nature in Ecuador and a mapping of the continuities and differences of the Ecuadorian case with a variety of additional cases. Finally, I will ask the question that drives this chapter, namely what the rights of nature tell us about the politics of nature: what possibilities are being inaugurated, and what lessons can already be learned? Once we pick out the constitutive elements of the rights of nature, both in theory and in practice, we will be in a position to reflect on their meaning and on the promises they hold for an environmental politics of the twenty-first century.
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