Laws focused on natural spaces often hone in on protecting what humans can gain from the natural resource, rather than protecting the space itself. However, “Rights of Nature” laws, which give natural spaces protection as legal entities, are beginning to crop up in an effort to change the narrative from one of protecting human interests to protecting nature for its own sake. 

The Whanganui River in New Zealand and other examples in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Bangladesh have all experimented with granting legal sovereignty to natural spaces. Now, Lake Erie is attempting to achieve legal protection of its own via “Rights of Nature” proceedings. 

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is a citizen-led movement which gained enough petition votes to earn a spot on the ballot and eventually pass. The law would more strictly regulate agricultural pollution, which causes deadly algae blooms in the water. In opposition, local farmers and some…
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