13 February 2024

Empowering the living world: The Rise of Rights of Nature in The Netherlands

By Nena Nilou

The Netherlands has not officially recognised Rights of Nature yet, but there is a growing movement locally and nationally committed to the cause. Our thriving Zoöp Movement is a visible part of this, playing a transformative role in reshaping the relationships of organisations with the living world.

Understanding ‘Rights of Nature’

The climate crisis and the degradation of ecosystems are the effects of an economic system that is aimed at generating short-term financial profit for private owners. It understands other-than-human life as resources that can be put to use for this goal. This economic framework is built on a distinction between the human world and ‘nature’, the world of non-humans, that is also coded into the prevailing legal systems. In this framework, humans call the shots and ‘nature’ is a collection of raw materials for human use, or at best a backdrop for human recreation. This has led to the current situation of rapid diminishing of the life-sustaining capacity of our planet. 

The concept of Rights of Nature challenges this notion by recognising nature's intrinsic worth.. Rights of Nature is a set of different legal mechanisms through which the living world, whether in its entirety or in part (such as ecosystems or species) gains a legal status equivalent to that of individuals and corporations. At the Zoömomic Institute, we believe that the living world, comprising a myriad of living entities, has the inherent right to flourish, and that it is essential for the near future habitability of the Earth that humans re-learn the skills of supportive participation in ecosystems.  Even although Rights of Nature are not yet part of the Dutch legal system, the Zoöp model is a way to work, think and feel with the living world as though it already has such rights, and based on these rights has legitimate interests that any organisation can take into account and work 

The Rights of Nature Foundation 

The Rights of Nature Foundation, founded by Jessica den Outer, exists to foster the adoptation of Rights of Nature in Dutch legislation and regulations. This with the aim of recognising and embedding the Rights of Nature in legislation and regulations. Through this foundation, campaigns are launched, local initiatives are supported and advice is provided. Their website provides an extensive overview (in Dutch) of bottom-up initiatives and political commitments that support the cause: naturally you will find us here!

Jessica den Outer’s Book

Jessica den Outer's important work, the book Rechten voor de Natuur (Rights of Nature), delves into the legal empowerment of vulnerable ecosystems across seven countries. From the beautiful Whanganui River in New Zealand to the sprawling Amazon rainforest in Colombia, den Outer unveils the narratives behind the legal emancipation of nature. Advocating for The Netherlands to embrace Rights for Nature, the book underscores the importance of individual engagement in our transformative movement. Read more about the acclaimed book here (in Dutch)

As we navigate the sometimes complex terrain of the Environmental Movement together, the Rights of Nature Foundation serves as a beacon of hope, urging all of us to reevaluate our relationship with the living world. Through collective action and advocacy, we can pave the way for a future where nature's rights are not only recognised but also celebrated and protected. The Zoöp Movement proudly stands alongside the foundation, contributing to our collective effort.