If a tree falls in the woods… Can ‘Mother Nature’ sue?

April 14, 2011 | By LUKE WAKE

Earlier this year I reported on lunacy at the UN Framework Convention on climate change. The Executive Director of the Framework Convention literally asked a Mayan Goddess to “inspire” the delegates. At the time, I offered some satirical comments on the environmental movement’s tendency to worship nature. But its true, without resorting to mystical explanations, there are no arguments for preserving nature for its own sake. As much as we value nature, and want to be good stewards of the world’s natural resources for future generations, we must not make the mistake of viewing environmental protection as an end in itself. This seems to be the dividing point between those who wish to take a reasoned approach to environmental regulation and those who wish to press ahead with draconian environmental regulations regardless of the costs to human welfare.

The environment is simply the natural world, nothing more. Unless we resort to some conception of mysticism, there is nothing sacred about it. A Christian might believe that there is something sacred about nature because he or she believes it is God’s creation, and others from other religous traditions might make similar claims. But, if one views the world strictly through the rationale lens of modern empiricism–without making an appeal to the supernatural–there is no basis for attributing any value to nature beyond the value it serves to individuals.

So with that point in mind, it is troubling that there is now a proposal to have the UN recognize “Mother Earth” as a living entity with legal rights. It reflects the religious ethos of the environmental movement because it anthropomorphizes nature without any basis in reason. But the most disturbing aspect of the proposal is that it seeks to assign rights to inanimate objects and unthinking plants or beasts. This is an egregious distortion of the very concept of rights. Rights are not proscribed entitlements to be assigned to anyone or anything by a legislative body. On the contrary, rights are unique to rational beings because only we are capable of exercising our faculties to distinguish between that which is good and to be pursued, and that which should be avoided. The concept of rights is merely an articulation of what individuals are owed in justice. So, there is simply no basis for extending the conception of rights to roses and rocks, or water and wildebeest. But alas, the lunacy of the environmental movement misses this point entirely.