Natures, Rights and Political Movements

by Larry Lohmann

first published 24 September 2018

Natures are partly composed of rights and rights are partly composed of natures. Every history of natures is a history of rights, and vice versa. Thus private property rights in land tend to come with a particular nature associated with hedges, fences and cadastral surveys. Similarly, the rights to global carbon-cycling capacity that are today parcelled out to industrialized countries under international agreements are tied to a novel, partly computer-engendered nature called “the global climate”.

Emerging political movements for “rights of nature” aimed at countering evolving capitalist movements for “rights to nature” need to be aware that such contrasting regimes of rights/natures are constantly in play, and are being used by all sides, on the “middle ground” that defines this conflict.