Why the “rights of nature” could be the next frontier for environmentalism.
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The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is the first law of its kind in the United States. In February of 2019, the residents of Toledo, Ohio voted to give Lake Erie's entire ecosystem legal rights. That means any citizen of Toledo, if they have credible evidence that a corporation or government is harming the lake, can file a lawsuit on behalf of Lake Erie in court.
The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is part of a larger movement to give legal rights to mountains, rivers, forests, and other natural objects. The citizens of these communities -- from Pennsylvania, to Ecuador, to New Zealand -- argue that because their long-term survival is dependent on the health of their natural surroundings, anything that harms the lakes, rivers, or forests they depend on should be considered a legal harm.
It’s a totally new way of approaching the law, and it could change the very nature of our relationship with the natural world. This is how one community in Ohio started what they hope will be a nationwide movement.
The National Center for Water Quality at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio has a great site (http://lakeeriealgae.com/) on harmful algae blooms.
This feature from Belt Magazine goes into more detail about some of the other agricultural practices that contribute to Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms.
This in-depth explainer (https://civileats.com/2019/04/09/lake-erie-was-granted-legal-rights-coul...) from Civil Eats goes into more detail about the rise of CAFOs in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Ohio Sea Grant (https://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/research/issues/habs) is another excellent resource for learning about harmful algae blooms.
Pam Taylor’s group, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, published a report in collaboration with the Sierra Club (https://www.sierraclub.org/michigan/follow-manure-factory-farms-and-lake...) on the impact of manure spreading in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
If you want to learn more about how larger industrial farm operations view the issue, this blog post (https://ofbf.org/2019/02/27/farm-bureau-support-farmers-legal-action-lak...) from the Ohio Farm Bureau outlines why they’re fighting the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in court.
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