Gary A Schlueter

Republished from Acorn Archive, November 1, 2022,

Congratulations President Lula de Silva!

Your victory is a victory for a healthier world. I awoke this morning to find the good news splashed across the headlines in New York, Washington, London and I’m sure everywhere else sane people gather.

You have an essential and immediate mandate, stopping the destruction of the Amazon and reclaiming jungle land lost to the immediate economic reward that is soy bean farming. It is to this mandate that I write today.

As you know, Bolivia and Ecuador have incorporated the Rights of Nature in their constitutions in one form or another. The Rights of Nature movement has been gathering steam for the past 20 years or more. Did you know, the Maori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) have been fighting in court and beyond for the rights of a river to be free of pollution and over exploitation?

After battling in court since 1895, the Maori, and the Whanganui River for which they spoke, emerged victorious. This victory has tremendous implications for the Amazon.

As NZ Attorney General Christopher Findlayson reported to his parliament, “For generations they (the Maori) have pursued justice in respect to the river. The constant position of Whanganui iwi for well over 150 years is that they never willingly relinguised possession or control of the Whanganui and all things that give the river its essential life,” including metaphysical things.

A tribunal created by the NZ parliament saw things the same way. According to David R. Boyd in his book The Rights of Nature, “In 2011 media reports emerged about a radical agreement recognizing the Whanganui River enjoyed the same legal rights as a person.” Legislation to implement this was passed in 2017, making the Whanganui a legally recognized living entity with rights of its own, including the right to life.

According to Boyd, “The Whanganui Agreement and the legislation include remarkable provisions intended to protect and implement the Maori perspective of the river as a wholistic system in which they are physically and spiritually embedded.” The 150 or so Indigenous tribes of the Amazon feel the same way, I know.

The result is “the Whanganui River is no longer owned by humans but by itself.” Think of what it would mean if the Amazon River was to own itself? It conceivably could, through its human mouthpiece, file lawsuits to stop harmful actions and even seek compensation for damage already done to what effectively are the lungs of the Earth.

You may wonder how a river can speak for itself in a court of law. The answer is the same way a corporation can, through its designated humans. In the case of the Whanganui, “the law establishes a new entity called Te Pou Tupua,” Mr. Boyd explains. “Two individuals will be appointed to serve as official guardians, one chosen by the Whanganui iwi and one by the government.” They will be the human face of the Whanganui and its ecosystem.

Again, my most heartfelt congratulations on our victory. I look forward to a newer greener Brazil and pray that the Amazon is saved from further destruction.