By Wesley J. Smith
We live in truly surreal times. In an age when all human beings still do not have access to human rights—and when some of the world’s foremost bioethicists declare that the unborn and cognitively disabled are not persons—radical environmentalists and others are agitating to grant “rights” to objects in nature.
In the latest phase of this descent into metaphysical madness, two rivers have been declared to be legal “persons” endowed with human-style rights. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River was granted the same legal rights as a human being. The reason? The Maori tribe considers the river sacred and an “ancestor.”
Religion was also why an Indian court declared the Ganges River, considered sacred in the Hindu faith, to be a “person.” From The Guardian story:
A court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand ordered on Monday that the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be accorded the status of living human entities. The decision, which was welcomed by environmentalists, means that polluting or damaging the rivers will be legally equivalent to harming a person.
Just what does it mean for a river to have “rights”? That remains to be seen. At the very least, human needs will count for far less when a river is considered our legal equal. For example, what if building a dam could prevent deadly flooding or generate electricity? Would these essential needs be left unfulfilled because the river has a “right” to flow unimpeded to the sea?