Bureaucrats, environmentalists, and media are still gathered in Cancun for this last week of global climate negotiations. Many different issues and ideas are being presented. Some new, some old, and some inspiring. Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange, a friend and colleague of mine, is there to discuss the topic of the rights of nature. Mankind isn’t the only group to be impacted by a changing climate. What do you think? Does nature have rights?
Take tigers. India is the country with the largest population of tigers, at approximately 1,411 (but probably less). Yes, India has a huge population of people encroaching on tiger habitat, but another reason tigers have nearly been wiped out in the last century is market demand in China for tiger parts. Then throw in the loss of habitat, some of it due to sea level rise, as is occurring in India’s Sundarban islands. And of course deforestation in other regions of the country (and continent). Tigers can’t speak for themselves, but don’t they have a right to exist? According to World Wildlife Fund, the number of tigers is thought to have fallen by over 95% since the turn of the 20th century. With as few as 3,200 remaining today, scientists say tigers could be extinct in the wild by 2022, which happens to be the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.
It has been predicted that one-fourth of species on Earth will face extinction by 2050 if the planet keeps warming and changing at its current rate. If there are mass extinctions, the balance of the natural world, which includes mankind, will be upended. I for one think nature has rights. Whether you believe in human-induced climate change or not, a major upheaval to biodiversity threatens all beings. Nothing less than the web of life is at risk.