Last month, several major natural features were recognized – by governments and courts – as legal persons. First, the New Zealand government enacted a new law declaring the Whanganui River a legal person. A couple of days later, the Uttarakhand High Court, in India, granted personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. And shortly thereafter the same Indian Court made a further order granting personhood to all of the rivers, glaciers, forests and other natural features of the Himalayas.
We’ve written about the possibility of lawsuits by climate impacted communities against fossil fuel companies for their contribution to climate change, but this raises the fascinating possibility that India’s glaciers – or the Whanganui River or other natural features – could be the plaintiff in a climate lawsuit.
The Gangotri Glacier in India, which was recently granted legal personhood. (Photo: Prashant Menon)