In almost all legal systems mountains, rivers, animals and trees are treated as property, unlike the legal personhood bestowed upon people and corporations.
In his 1972 book, Should Trees Have Standing?, Christopher Stone describes the gradual expansion of legal personhood in the Western legal tradition; from the first persons in law being exclusively white adult men to including children, women, people of colour and indigenous nations. The concept of a non-human legal person is not foreign to us either – think of the legal personality of companies.
New norms around legal personality and personhood are beginning to find a place in some legal systems – from rivers in India to mountains in New Zealand, nature has been recognised in certain contexts as a” legal person” with its own rights. More recently in 2018, the Supreme Court of Columbia recognised the part of the Amazon rainforest in Columbia as an "entity subject of rights". Early last year the state of Ohio recognised the legal rights of Lake Erie allowing it to sue its polluters.
Clyde & Co is running a virtual legal hackathon between 1 July and 4 August 2020 in partnership with The Chancery Lane Project. This post is part of a series of updates posted during the hackathon on business-relevant climate initiatives and innovative solutions to some of the challenges arising from climate change.