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Nature's Legal Rights in Florida Being Tested

Arguing for the legal rights of nature, five bodies of water threatened by development are suing the state of Florida as well as a developer.

Lake Hart, Florida
Lake Hart, one of the five bodies of water suing Florida | Credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife

This all goes back to November 2020, when voters in Orange County, Florida approved a charter amendment to protect the “rights of nature” by a whopping majority of nearly 90 percent. Along with the human right to have clean water, it granted nature four rights: the right to exist, to flow, to be protected against pollution, and to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

And in approving the “earth law,” they emulating similar initiatives taken by Indigenous peoples all over the planet. They passed similar laws protecting the rights of nature in places like Panama and New Zealand.

Now, a group of five bodies of water in Florida are testing the new amendment. Threatened by a development that would destroy more than wetlands and streams by filling and polluting them, the bodies of water are suing the state and developer.

Wetlands and waterways are critical to both local ecosystems and the planet’s (and by extension, human) health overall - we can’t keep destroying them. Right now, nature is viewed as property, and when you buy property you can do whatever you want with it.

Some version of nature rights laws now exist in about 20 countries, including Canada, Bolivia and Uganda, as well as half a dozen Tribal Nations in the U.S. and dozens of cities and counties.

OGN first reported in this ground breaking case last summer, and the first hurdle is only weeks away. Everyone in Florida is waiting with bated breath for the upcoming hearing on April 26 to see if this case will be dismissed before it has even started. We'll keep you posted.


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