Bamboo Forest, China (Courtesy of Kelly Dorkenoo)
The law has seen the beginning of an evolution toward recognition of the inherent rights of Nature to exist, thrive and evolve. This evolving legal approach acknowledges that the traditional environmental regulatory systems generally described herein regard nature as property to be used for human benefit, rather than a rights-bearing partner with which humanity has co-evolved. Rights of Nature is grounded in the recognition that humankind and Nature share a fundamental, non-anthropocentric relationship given our shared existence on this planet, and it creates guidance for actions that respect this relationship. Legal provisions recognizing the Rights of Nature, sometimes referred to as Earth Jurisprudence, include constitutions, national statutes, and local laws. In addition, new policies, guidelines and resolutions are increasingly pointing to the need for a legal approach that recognizes the rights of the Earth to well-being.
T.N Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs. Union of India & Others (2012) is known for the opinions of Judges K.S. Radhakrishnan and Chandramauli Kr. Prasad who asserted that Environmental Justice could be achieved only if we drift away from anthropocentric principles. Relevant section (Para.14) is highlighted in the document.
On 17 October 2013, in the Federal District of Mexico, the Environmental Law for the Protection of the Earth entered into force. Relevant sections are highlighted in the document. See also: background information on the law and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLIiKR_jNpM.
Te Urewera, named a national park in 1954 became Te Urewera on 27 July 2014: "a legal entity" with "all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person" (section 11 (1)). Te Urewera is managed by the new Te Urewera Board responsible "to act on behalf of, and in the name of, Te Urewera" (s 17(a)).
In January 2014, a state constitutional amendment was proposed in Colorado which specifically includes the right of municipalities to pass laws establishing the Rights of Nature. The amendment, approved for petitioning by the Colorado Supreme Court, is expected to be circulated for signature collection and qualification to the statewide ballot in 2016. It is the first such state constitutional amendment proposed in the United States.
Sierra Club v. Morton (1972) is known for the dissenting opinion by Judge William O. Douglas who asserted that natural resources ought to have standing to sue for their own protection. The section about Rights of Nature (pp 7-9) is highlighted in the document.