My people live together in ways based on the premise that human beings are separate from and superior to other aspects of reality – our rights valued more highly. It has not been so in all cultures. Our society, with its values, assumptions, stories, laws, flows of power and action, is based on this perspective.
We have lost sight of our place in reality – we live without respect for our context within the universe. We live out of relationship with the local environment around us. This is delusion, insanity.
One of my personal prophets, Thomas Berry, says, “So too every being has rights to be recognized and revered. Trees have tree rights, insects have insect rights, rivers have river rights, mountains have mountain rights. So too with the entire range of beings throughout the universe. All rights are limited and relative. So to with humans. We have human rights. We have rights to the nourishment and shelter we need. We have rights to habitat. But we have no rights to deprive other species of their proper habitat. We have no rights to interfere with their migration routes. We have no rights to disturb the basic functioning of the biosystems of this planet…. We own property in accord with the well-being of the property and for the benefit of the larger community as well as ourselves.” The Great Work, Bell Tower, New York, 1999.
Can we learn to see ourselves in new ways? Can we learn to properly value other natural entities as having their own intrinsic rights in relation to our own?
Three rivers, the Whanganui, the Ganges, and the Yamuna, each held sacred by local people who live in relationship with them, have been assigned legal status and protection as a living entity, equal to that of a human being. There will be complications and mistakes in this new journey together, but this seems to be an important awaking, baby steps toward sanity and healing.
New Zealand River Granted Same Legal Rights As Human Being, Guardian, March 16, 2017
India court gives sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers human status, BBC, March 21, 2017