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David Boyd is an environmental lawyer, he's the author of a new book The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save The World. AMT: What rights are you arguing we should give nature?
DAVID BOYD: Well this is really important Anna Maria, we're not arguing that nature should have the rights of a human being.
So what we do in saying that an injury to an already over depleted river, and this river is already over allocated, it’s dying in certain parts, there's not enough of the river to go around, especially within the context of our current property and water law regimes. And it would be a further stretch to say that we're going to give standing to natural objects.
What we say is that no, these kinds of relationships that are going to result in the death of the river and therefore the death of everything that depends upon it, and ultimately that does include human beings, they must be scrutinized and so that's how we fight that. I don't want to say it's a bad idea, but there is really not much appetite to enhance environmental protection.
See usually what happens in environmental law, as it stands right now in Canadian and American jurisprudence, is that there has to be some kind of injury to human beings for there to be standing.
So what happens is with a lot of cases where the courts recognize that there is damage being done to our environment end up getting thrown out of court due to this procedural defect.
And they can go to court so that the courts can recognize injuries to them. And look at it this way right, this is the best way to address this is if you look at say a corporation wants to go to the river and open a plastic bottling plant. AMT: Jason Flores-Williams lawyer representing the Colorado River and the conservation group Deep Green Resistance. Well the Colorado case has its skeptics, even among those who would like to see better environmental protection.
And by doing that it changes the way in which all things interact with them on this planet of ours. Now, you have brought this case against the state and the governor of Colorado. And because this corporation has 50 billion dollars and can do whatever it wants as far as manipulating the current laws that are applicable to the river. And because we're not able to show that this corporation is the bottling of the river and the reselling it around the world is going to result in an immediate harm to a human being, there's nothing that we can do under our current laws to be able to stop that. Professor Jody Freeman is the founding Director of the environmental law program at the SOUNDCLIP JODY FREEMAN: Even when it comes to animals and injuring animals, we don't have a history of them getting legal standing.
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So what happens in these situations is that regardless of what you have set up around this and regardless of what laws you have currently, you're going to have negative outcomes. So they are there arguing that the rights of the river needs to be balanced for other needs. JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS: Well I mean I think we fight it by [sighs] I don't know if we necessarily fight it.
And the way to fix this and address this negative outcome is to say a river, a finite natural resource upon which we all depend, and ecosystems upon which in which we are all integrated, that they themselves are dynamic systems that have standing. I think that they've done as good a job as they can do with the current regime of laws that are based on property and ownership of the river and ownership of rights to the river.
And so that mechanism is very easy, because it already exists in our court and courts are adept at ascertaining whether or not that mechanism, whether or not that fiduciary relationship is indeed one that serves the best interests of the entity that isn't able to make arguments in court. And would the entity, so you’re talking about river itself. So what this does is in preserving something like the Colorado River, what we do is we preserve an ecosystem. I mean, if you look, you know, environmental law, environmental lawyers have done a fantastic job but, you know, as you know up in Canada and here is that what's happening is the environment just seems to be getting worse and more degraded as time goes on, despite all the best efforts of people who’d attempt to use environmental laws.
AMT: And that isn’t already protected under environmental law now? So what we need to do now is we just need to simply equal the playing field and say that if you have, look, what draws me to this issue fundamentally is I'm interested in situations where one party has all of the rights and all of the resources and another party has no rights and no resources, even though ironically enough nature is the resource, the resource. I'm going to read it to you in part, this is a quote, “Colorado and countless partners have long understood the significance of the Colorado River system and the need to balance our needs for water with conservation and enhancement of the river ecosystem.” That's part of the quote and the rest of the quote is, she says the Colorado's water plan is their quote, “to ensure sufficient water supplies for agriculture, cities, recreation, and the environment as our state continues to grow,” end quote.