John Stonestreet on Granting Nature Legal Status at the Expense of Humans

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


With the modern environmental movement, which emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, came a new term: ecocide. It means the deliberate destruction of the natural environment.

It’s not clear who coined the phrase, but it was then-Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme who first called for it to be declared a crime in 1972. Palme’s call came barely two decades after the international Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide went into effect, and at a time when many nations, including the United States, had yet to ratify the Convention on Genocide.

And yet, here was a head of state demanding that trees, rivers, and other inanimate objects be given the same legal protections that the civilized world had not yet fully extended to human beings.

Sadly, that past is just a prologue. Last month, a group called “Stop Ecocide” began to lay the legal groundwork for prosecuting Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on charges of ecocide.

The recent fires in the Amazon rainforest, the group argued, made Bolsonaro “a poster boy for the need for a crime of ecocide.” The effort is supported by the Hague’s top prosecutor who wants to prioritize cases involving the “destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land.”

While there’s no current legal basis for such a prosecution, it’s not as much of a stretch as you’d think. Several countries have already recognized the idea of “environmental personhood,” under which rivers and other parts of nature have been given legal rights that can be enforced in a court of law. One recent example is the Whanganui River in New Zealand, which, in 2017, was granted the same legal rights as a human being.

Actually, the Whanganui has more legal rights than some human beings in New Zealand. The unborn there can currently be destroyed in cases of hardship to the mother, and new proposed legislation would effectively legalize abortion right up until the moment of birth with no legal consequences. So, unlike the Whanganui and other rivers, the unborn there would not be entitled to legal representation or a day in court. The appropriate word for this would be “feticide,” but when was the last time you heard anyone who wasn’t pro-life use it?

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Source: Christian Headlines