The Rights of Nature in Europe. Reflections on a Growing Movement

Guest lecture on the 23rd of June by Alex Putzer, MIT Leventhal Centre for Advanced Urbanism, Boston (USA)/Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa (Italy)


On 23rd June, Alex Putzer, researcher on the Rights of Nature at the MIT Leventhal Centre for Advanced Urbanism, Boston (USA), and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa (Italy), held a guest lecture at the University of Innsbruck.

Different from a human right to a healthy environment, the concept of Rights of Nature puts nature at the very center of its legal and ethical consideration. Nature is seen as a legal entity that should be granted rights in order to be protected. While in the human right to a healthy environment nature remains a legal object, nature would be given the status of a legal subject by the Rights of Nature movement.  The Rights of Nature movements draw from the model of planetary boundaries, which describes the safe operating spaces for planet Earth. If these are crossed, actions are no longer sustainable and collapses are more likely to happen.

This movement has its roots in Latin America and is now spreading more and more in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. To classify and gather information on all these movements, Alex Putzer and others have created an impressive map of nature initiatives around the globe (for further information, see: One famous example where nature is granted legal subjectivity is Ecuador. There, the rights of nature are enshrined in the Constitution and anyone can invoke them in case nature or single elements of it are violated in their rights. Another example is New Zealand where a river has been adjudicated environmental personhood. In Europe, 40+ initiatives promote the rights of nature, and there are several projects for constitutional amendments for their adoption.

Considerations on how rights of nature could eventually be implemented in South Tyrol concluded the lecture. Alex Putzer identified three key factors: raising social awareness, changing laws and founding a “Südtiroler Umweltanwaltschaft”, modelled after the Tiroler Umweltanwaltschaft.

©Sophie Mair, Martin Kripp


Nach oben scrollen