Review: The Rights of Nature by David R. Boyd

We don’t have to go on repeating the same negative behaviour on an international scale that we are practicing today. We can change.

Graham Hancock (talk in South Africa, 2011)


If ever there was any doubt about the reality of that possibility, this book will dispel it.

David Boyd guides us almost Virgil-like through the concentric circles of a topic that is vast, complex and potentially as dry as courtroom dust. But, like Virgil, he has an engaging tone, a light touch, and a mastery of drama and pathos. He shows us how we are coming to re-evaluate our relationship with what we call ‘nature’ in concrete terms, through the courts of law, where a fast-growing revolution is underway to rewrite the legislation that governs our interactions with other sentient beings and the habitats we share with them.

What is at stake here is nothing short of everything upon which our sense of who we are, our so-called identity as a species and a human civilisation, is based. From the clearly implausible legal definition of an animal enshrined in the US Animal Welfare Act, which does not include animals used in agriculture, research or fisheries, to the debate around whether a chimpanzee can be a legal person; from the many hundreds of David and Goliath lawsuits being filed against rapacious corporations to protect vulnerable communities from devastation in the name of profit to the breathtaking Te Urewera Act of 2014, which declassifies a disputed region of the North Island of New Zealand as a national park and recognises its intrinsic right to own itself and possess extensive legal rights, the story that David Boyd narrates is both bold and challenging. Knowledge of the law is no longer sufficient to read the legal texts and constitutions being written in this new century of ours: now imagination is just as important. Not a moment too soon.

Questions and eyebrows alike may be raised upon exploring these pages, but we are invited to leave our weapons at the door and enter in a spirit of possibility and – dare I say it – optimism. This book is a lighthouse in a storm.

rights of nature_cover

Boyd, David R., The Rights of Nature: a legal revolution that could save the world (ECW Press; Toronto, 2017). Also available as ebook upon purchase of the print edition.

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