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Constitutional amendment draft could make history by granting rights to nature: 'Protection at the system level is necessary'

This legislation would make this only the second country globally to recognize such rights within its constitution.

This legislation would make this only the second country globally to recognize such rights within its constitution.

Photo Credit: iStock

Aruba is on the brink of declaring that the environment — not just humans — deserves protection, shifting how we may view our relationship with the natural world, according to Inside Climate News.

Proposed by Ursell Arends, Aruba's minister of nature, new constitutional amendments aim to grant legal protections to nature, affirming its rights to protection, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity. Simultaneously, the amendments would acknowledge every individual's entitlement to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment — a monumental shift in the nation's approach to environmental policy.

If passed, this legislation would make Aruba only the second country globally, following Ecuador, to recognize such rights within its constitution.

The proposed constitutional changes come in response to a growing global movement recognizing the interdependence between humans and the natural world. 

"Protection at the system level is necessary because it takes into account the interrelationships between species and their abiotic environment," the memorandum issued with the draft bill said. "Protection at the individual or species level disregards these mutual relationships."

This movement aims to protect natural areas like forests, rivers, and lakes by allowing them to "fight" against pollution and exploitation in court through representatives. For example, Spain's Mar Menor lagoon was granted legal personhood to protect it from harmful pollution, ensuring it can exist and evolve naturally. 

This approach can change how people view and interact with the environment, shifting from seeing nature as an object that serves people to recognizing its intrinsic value and rights.

Arends expressed optimism about the bill's prospects, citing widespread awareness of the environmental challenges facing the island and the critical role nature plays in sustaining its economy and way of life. 

Aruba, with its economy heavily reliant on tourism and its unique ecosystem under threat from factors like waste management and overheating, stands to benefit significantly from such legislative measures.

The proposed amendments also mandate regular environmental assessments and reports to lawmakers, underscoring the government's commitment to upholding these rights over time. Working closely with local and international partners, including the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and the U.S.-based Earth Law Center, Aruba is laying the groundwork for a historic legislative shift — one that could set a precedent for environmental rights worldwide.

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