The climate crisis is fully main stage, with California burning and Florida drowning. If we’re going to forestall worse to come, we need innovation not just in tech—more clean energy, resilient cities, genetically modified crops that need less fertilizer—but in law, the rule sets that architect our behavior.
The idea of giving personhood to nature has been slowly gaining adherents. Environmentalists have prodded governments and courts to award rights to lakes, hills, rivers, and even individual species of plants. The New Zealand parliament has given legal rights to the Whanganui River, while Colombia has made the Páramo de Pisba region in the Andes—threatened for years by mining—a “subject of rights.” About three dozen towns across the US are passing Toledo-style bills, and the Florida Democratic Party lists the rights of nature in its party platform.