Good Grief: ‘Terra Carta,’ a Proposed Magna Carta for Nature

January 20, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021


Should the Mississippi River be allowed to sue farmers to prevent them from using its water? Should the law permit California’s redwood trees to litigate against timber companies? Should mountains be able to obtain injunctions to stop ore mining or reindeer to prevent pipelines from being built?

If you think these are ridiculous notions, I agree. But if you also think that such radical laws will never be enacted, you haven’t heard of the “nature rights” movement, a growing campaign promoted by misanthropic environmentalists to grant human-type rights to “nature.”

Who would support such a thing? Well, Prince Charles, for one. He recently issued the “Terra Carta”—meaning Earth Charter—a radical environmental manifesto that he says is patterned after the Magna Carta of 1215.

Terra Carta seeks to do for nature what the Magna Carta accomplished for the development of what we now call human rights.

“Magna Carta inspired a belief in the fundamental rights and liberties of people,” the proposed earth charter states. “As we strive to imagine the next 800 years of human progress, the fundamental rights and value of Nature must represent a step-change in our ‘future of industry’ and ‘future of economy’ approach.”

What does that even mean? Hint: It isn’t simply about preventing pollution.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has defined nature’s rights as: “Nature, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, function and its processes in evolution.”

Think deeply about what that definition encompasses. The right to “exist, persist, and regenerate vital cycles” is the equivalent of a right to life. Moreover, the idea goes far beyond passing laws to conserve resources and prevent pollution. Granting rights to “nature’s” would, at the very least, make the supposed rights of birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees coequal to those of humans. And, as we shall see, they would also apply to geological features like rivers and mountains.

Here’s the beauty part for radical environmentalists. Such laws would be enforced in court by anyone who believes that nature’s rights are being violated. In other words, nature rights laws would grant the most radical green ideologues legal standing to use courts to impede any project they oppose.

That would bring human enterprise that makes use of natural resources to a screeching halt. Think about it: What company is going to pursue large-scale development projects knowing they can be sued even if they overcome regulatory obstacles? Kiss pipelines, fracking, mining, and timber harvesting goodbye.

Nature rights also would fit snugly into the “Great Reset,” by which the Davos crowd intend to remake capitalism into an arm of environmental governance to fight global warming and otherwise save the planet. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, identified the Great Reset’s goal as universally “revamping all aspects of our societies and economies” with “every industry, from oil and gas to tech, transformed.”

What would accomplish that hubristic objective more efficiently than making millions of people potential litigants against earth-harming industries? Talk about a radical lawyers’ full employment plan!

Terra Carta would interpose similar radical agendas into the business plans of all major industries by “embedding a ‘Nature, People & Planet’ orientation, including 100 percent clean energy operations, into corporate vision and mission statements, operations, financing, reporting, consumer communications, procurement and supply chains.”

Also, “engaging board members, employees, shareholders and consumers in an ongoing improvement dialogue around ESG [environmental and social governance], transition roadmaps, sustainability priorities, game changers and reporting on sustainability targets.”

The charter also endorses “making sustainability the responsibility of the entire management team.” To say the least, “free enterprise” would no longer be free, or in many cases, profitable.

They’ll never go along, say you? Wrong. Terra Carta has already been endorsed by Bank of America, BP, Blackrock, and—totally missing the irony—Heathrow Airport!

It isn’t just Prince Charles. Pope Francis is on board with nature rights (as well as “ecocide” that would criminalize large-scale enterprise). Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also endorsed granting rights to nature. Demonstrating how ideological the science intelligentsia is becoming, Science—the most prestigious scientific journal in the world—published a piece wholeheartedly endorsing the concept.

On the political side, the Florida Democratic Party recently added nature rights to its policy platform. Since Democrats follow the “no enemies on the left” strategy, that could mean it will soon be incorporated into the national party’s radical environmental agenda. And don’t think the idea won’t one day become part of the party’s proposed Green New Deal.

While most people remain blissfully unaware of nature rights activism, the movement has made stunning inroads. Nature rights is the law in Bolivia and Ecuador. So far, four rivers—including the Amazon—have been declared rights-bearing entities. So have two glaciers.

Lake Erie was granted rights by voters in Toledo, necessitating Ohio to pass a law preempting the ordinance. More than 30 U.S. municipalities have also passed nature rights laws—usually in an attempt to impede fracking. But so did Santa Monica, which is notable, since there is no “nature” left in that highly developed city with the possible exception of the mackerel under the pier.

Nature rights would unleash a recessionary tsunami in the West. But it would have a particularly pernicious impact in the developing world, where granting equal rights to forests, valuable ores, rivers, swamps, and animal herds—all parts of nature—would thwart the ability of impoverished people to liberate themselves from destitution by harvesting earth’s bounty.

Any movement that puts the supposed rights of nature above the thriving of people can fairly be called anti-human. As for Prince Charles’s Terra Carta proposal, I say: “Long live the queen!”

Award-winning author Wesley J. Smith is chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and author of “The War on Humans.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.