Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Earth Jurisprudence

                The Pi Sigma Alpha chapter of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, recently hosted a native American activist to promulgate the idea that nature should be granted rights, affording the Earth itself legal protection. Pi Sigma Alpha is not a fraternity. It is the National Political Science Honor Society, and also comprises the school’s political science club. The club invited Tom Goldtooth, a well-known “environmental justice and indigenous rights activist” according to an email it put out, to speak about environmentalism and social justice, including “Earth Jurisprudence,” a legal philosophy premised on the belief that “Mother Earth” has legal rights which demand protection. (Yet, according to its own policy guidelines, Pi Sigma Alpha is prohibited from sponsoring any partisan event or activity. I guess partisan is in the eye of the beholder).
                Mr. Goldtooth’s lecture focused on providing the Earth with legal representation, which would in turn allow people to sue on behalf of the planet. Earth Jurisprudence in action. Campus Reform recently cited a website called The Rights of Nature, which is dedicated to giving the Earth legal representation. The site explains that Earth Jurisprudence advocates for laws which would make certain actions “illegitimate and ‘unlawful,’” thereby permitting prosecution of actions which infringe on the Earth’s rights.
                Who would be authorized to sue on “nature’s” behalf? Who decides what human actions are “illegitimate?” Who decides what rights the planet has? Would a successful suit bring remuneration? If so, to whom? “Mother Earth” doesn’t have any pockets…or a checking account. Would mining be a literal crime against nature? Fracking would certainly be illegal. What about an individual stabbing the Earth repeatedly with his or her shovel when prepping for a garden or planting a tree? Would that be legal, or would it be rape? Would the benefits be seen to outweigh the trauma caused? What about fertilization? Would one get a jury of his peers?   
                And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth…”
                And progressives said: “Don’t listen to that old, white, patriarchal, reactionary font of traditional morality! People are bad for the Earth, and cattle farts are too! In a perfect world, Earth would have dominion over us…or at least over those eeevil conservatives.”  


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