“What if trees had legal standing?” Christopher Stone, an American law lecturer, asked his students in 1971.
A year later, his book Should Trees Have Standing was published.
Professor Stone suggests that the idea of a thing holding legal rights involves, at minimum:
- that the thing can institute legal actions at its behest
- that in determining the grant of legal relief, the court must take injury to it into account
- that relief must run to the benefit of the thing.
Should this be applied to, say, a company that razes a forest to extract fossil fuel, this would entail ensuring:
- that a human can seek legal remedy on behalf of the forest
- that when determining remedy the court will give proper consideration to the damage, destruction to, or loss of the forest
- that the forest benefits from the remedy imposed.
Without benefit of remedy to the forest (or any thing in which rights are vested) nothing is achieved. To fine a company guilty of harming the forest does nothing in terms of restoring the damage caused in the first place. Implicit within Stone’s analysis is the imposition of a duty of care upon the company; the company has to make good the damage, not simply buy its way out of the problem.
The text above is paraphrased from Eradicating Ecocide by Polly Higgins. (I cannot recommend this book highly enough.)
The two photos above are of my little 23-year-old horse chestnut tree, this month. It has no rights at all. (I’m the only one who gives a rat’s arse about it. If I should stop watering it, it will die.)
“What is ecocide?”