Rights to Nature

Peter Foster wrote a column challenging an Ecuadorean plan to give rights to nature. David Boyd responded in defense of that.  Now letter writers are having a go. Here is a thoughtful one:

“So Prof. David Boyd wants Canada to “enshrine the rights of nature” into its constitution. He undoubtedly is hoping the rest of us do not understand the nature and meaning of rights and the purpose of a constitution. Rights define freedoms of action in a social context and, as Ayn Rand argued, only apply to entities that possess the faculty of reason. Since humans survive by using reason to exploit nature for human benefit, rights were invented to protect each individual’s right to life, liberty (entails free speech), property, and the pursuit of happiness. The purpose of a constitution is to delimit the power of government, and the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect individual rights.

“To grant rights to nature — to animals, rivers, rocks, insects, etc. — logically means to prevent humans from exploiting nature for human benefit, which outlaws the human means of survival and obliterates individual rights. It grants government the ominous power to sacrifice humans to the non-human — to shut down oil production, forestry, fishing, mining, farming, manufacturing, pipeline construction, etc. In other words, the standard of value is not human well-being but “leave nature alone”. Granting government such power is every dictator’s dream and a recipe for economic destruction and, eventually, mass murder.

“Am I scaremongering? Millions of people, mostly women and children in Third World countries, died painfully and needlessly of malaria because of a widespread ban of DDT initiated by the U.S. government in the 1970s based on a dishonest campaign by environmentalists who were allegedly trying to protect certain animal species. It’s a logical consequence of granting rights to the non-human.”

Glenn Woiceshyn, Calgary