Does Nature Have Rights?  A Conversation with Mother Nature


A short time ago, I was running down a trail when I stumbled over an exposed root.  I fell to the ground and bruised my elbows, hands, and knees.  Quite angrily, I grabbed the offending root and started to rip it out of the ground.  Suddenly, I heard a loud voice cry out, “Please, I am very sorry, I did not mean to hurt you.”  I looked around to see who had issued this apology but seeing no one I went back to trying to destroy the tree root.  I quickly heard another cry that sounded even more plaintive and sad than the first saying, “Please do not destroy me, I am very sorry that you were hurt, but I need my roots to live.”


I thought I might be imagining this voice, but I stopped yanking on the root and more out of a sense of humor than any belief that I was talking to a tree, I called out “Why, should I?  What is one more tree to the forest.  There are lots of trees here and one more is not going to make a difference.”  Suddenly, a great wind swept through the trees and standing in front of me was a creature unlike any I had ever seen before.  It was at least twenty feet tall and shaped like a star.  It hovered above the forest floor, and it pulsed with a beautiful light that had a golden glow.  I had never seen anything more beautiful.


While the setting was quite eerie, it did not inspire fear but rather awe.  I knew instinctively that it was sentient, and I asked “What do you want?  Who or what are you?”  It answered, “I am who you call ‘Mother Nature.’  I created this forest, the lakes, the trees, the plants and in fact the entire earth.  You are about to destroy one of my children.”

I realized that this was no hoax and that no one was pulling my leg.  This was beyond anything I had ever experienced.  I was cold sober.  I was not on any pills or medication.  I was 75 years old and more rationale than I had ever been before.  Mother Nature was a fiction to me, a type of being that existed as a metaphor and not a real-life force.  I do not believe in ghosts, devils, angels or even God.  Now I was face to face with a being that said it was “Mother Nature.”

I was in no mood to equivocate on the issue or to argue finer points of logic around life and death.  I owe life to any creature, and I have no right to take the life of any creature for any reason other than self-perpetuation.  To destroy life wantonly and for no reason other than anger or malice may be the worst of all sins on the earth.  I spoke and said “I am very sorry; I was being selfish.  I never really thought of the earth around me as sentient or possessing the same kind of intelligence as I had.”

“Yes, said Mother Nature, your species is the first on this planet to ignore the responsibilities it has to the rest of the planet and to its fellow inhabitants.  Over the years, I have watched as more and more of the earth is destroyed by both your avarice and simple indifference.  I do not know which is worse.  Few of you really believe that your own lives depend on how you treat the planet that you live on.  Most of you just do not seem to care.”

stone_trees“I never really thought much about it”, I replied.  “I do think I care about the environment, and I do my best to support environmental efforts at conservation and sustainability.  Of course, I suppose if you were judging me, you would say that I usually put my own self-interests first.”

“I could destroy all humanity if I desired to, but I have tried to minimize destruction in the warnings that I have sent to you.  It has not done much good.  No matter the intensity of my warnings, you just keep doing what you have been doing to destroy the environment,” whispered Mother Nature.

“Every plant, every tree, the oceans, the lakes, the soil, the sky, the wind, volcanoes, mountains, the rain are all my children.  I love them as much as you love your children.  Every time one of them is needlessly injured, I feel the pain a mother does for an injured child.”

The longer I listened, the guiltier I felt.  All of my efforts at recycling and sustainability seemed like so much dust in the wind.  What I have really done my whole life was to abuse Mother Nature and her offspring.  The earth was something that I used when expedient.  It was never something that I went to sleep thinking about or woke up with any great desire to treat better than I had already been doing.  I prided myself on being more “Woke” when it came to environmental issues than most other people.  But as far as “rights” were concerned, Mother Nature had no more rights than the “Man in the Moon.”

Mother_NatureI did not know what to say.  I was speechless.  I felt selfish and self-centered.  I had neglected my responsivities to the planet and all of the other species who inhabited it.  The earth was never more than a convenient piece of landscape that might or might not be useful to me.  Air, water, and land were mere things, mere objects that I could use and dispose of to help make my life better.  I might fear hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados but I relied on science to protect me from these “natural” disasters.

I believed that humans had the right to tame “Mother Nature” and to “harness” her energy for our own enrichment.  It was a win lose world and I was taught that we must win at any cost.  To seek our victory, we could pollute the water ways, destroy forests and landscapes, and put all the toxins we wanted to into the atmosphere.  It was an “out of sight, out of mind” morality that was dominated by an economic way of looking at the world.  Money mattered more than Mother Nature and her offspring.

As I watched and waited for another response from Mother Nature, she slowly started to fade away.  Just as I thought she had gone, with a deep powerful roar she left me the following message, “Those who destroy nature, destroy themselves.”

A good friend of mine sent me a newsletter a few days ago from Jim Hightower.  The majority of the newsletter was devoted to a concept and political movement called “The Rights of Nature.”  The core of this movement is a recognition that species and ecosystems are not simply resources for humans to use but are living entities with rights of their own.  Many indigenous people have long accepted this belief.  The fight between “settlers” and indigenous people was in most instances a conflict between cultures which accepted the Rights of Nature and those which rejected this concept.


“In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to acknowledge Nature as a rights holder within its constitution.  In a world where Nature is primarily treated as a resource, the “Rights of Nature” concept and its emerging application prompts important questions: What are the theoretical, logistical, and cultural challenges of granting Nature rights? Who can represent and defend nature and why? Is the concept a necessary progression towards an environmental future?”  — “Can Nature Have Rights? Legal and Political Insights” – Edited by Anna Leah Tabios Hillebrecht and María Valeria Berros,  Rachel Carlson Center

There is no happy ending to my story.  I see little evidence that our political systems or economic systems care about Mother Nature.  The movement for the “Rights of Nature” could be a very positive step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, corporations and greedy developers are already marshaling their forces to prevent such a movement from gaining a foothold.


There is a saying that “people get the government they deserve.”  You and I might argue against this wisdom, but it is the people that accept or reject a given political and economic direction.  In the USA, too many people would rather shop on Black Friday than make a trip to their local recycling center.  Heaven Forbid, that recycling would increase the cost of their new Nikes or their Abercrombie sweatshirt.   The future lies in our hands.  The earth will go on with or without humanity.  IF we want to be a part of the future, we had better start making wiser choices now.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wayne Woodman
    Feb 10, 2022 @ 20:47:26

    Wow, thanks John for sharing this story, very profound! Like you I have always been environmentally aware and try to do my best but have recognized I live beyond my sustainable foot print. I came from resource rich Newfoundland in the 50’s and 60’s and now find myself in a much larger country with dwindling resources and rampant over consumption, and it all happened without thinking about the consequences of our actions. We became subsumed into consumer culture and ignored the reality of the loss of Nature but we are now starting to pay the price.
    I do not believe in a god or gods but have always felt a peace when truly in nature. However, I believe that is a dying experience and bemoaned that fact last year when there was a movement to erect cell towers in some of our “wilderness” parks. I do believe that a majority of humanity has been totally divorced from Nature and the repercussions are just starting with dire consequences in our near future.



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Feb 11, 2022 @ 16:39:16

      Thanks Wayne for your insights. Your comment about “truly at peace in nature” really resonated with me. I love being outdoors in snow, wind, rain on the ocean, at a mountain ski area or simply hiking in the desert. I feel very serene at these moments. It breaks my heart to think of the developments that have often gone up in areas that I thought of as “my wilderness retreats.” It will be an uphill battle to save Mother Nature. John



  2. Wayne Woodman
    Feb 10, 2022 @ 20:59:23

    Addendum to my post– bet this experience is giving you more sleepless nights and added to your top 10!



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Feb 11, 2022 @ 16:25:53

      Yes, Wayne, very true. Do you remember the song “When will I be loved?” My song would be “When will I be wise?”



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Feb 11, 2022 @ 16:41:42

      Yes Wayne, I wonder when I will (if ever) reach enlightenment and be a “wise” old man.



  3. Jane Fritz
    Feb 10, 2022 @ 21:19:34

    A tour de force, John. Ecuador might have been the first country to recognize Nature as having rights (although Bhutan and Costa Rica must come close), but Indigenous societies have always recognized the rights of Nature and their responsibilities to her, for millennia.



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Feb 11, 2022 @ 16:21:30

      Thanks Jane, anyone of an indigenous background must be laughing at the “White Conquerors” who have now resurrected the idea that Nature has rights. John

      Liked by 1 person


    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Feb 11, 2022 @ 16:40:55

      Thanks Jane, Indigenes cultures must be laughing and crying at our folly and stupidity. John



      • Jane Fritz
        Feb 11, 2022 @ 21:04:18

        I think it’s more likely that they’re revolted and distraught at the destruction the Eurocentric world has wrought on our planet. There’s nothing to laugh at, that’s for sure.



  4. Sakshi Thakur
    Feb 25, 2022 @ 09:23:19

    Really nice



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