Should Lake Erie Have Legal Rights Like You And Me
We will find out if the people of Toledo Ohio think so. The voters of Toledo will give us their thoughts on Tuesday February 26th when they go to vote.
If the ballot initiative is passed by the citizens of Toledo it would make it actually possible for any citizen of Toledo to sue anyone for damages they believe and can prove polluted the lake.
The question is can an inanimate object or in this case a lake have legal rights. Most people you would think would say no, but in this day in age who knows.
Environmentalist are extremely excited about this initiative because they say they are tired of seeing the lake polluted by man. The people behind this effort believe the lake has a legal right to:
to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve
Most sane people do not want to see our lakes polluted but I hope most sane people also believe that an inanimate object does not have legal standing or rights.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines inanimate as:
not endowed with life or spirit…lacking consciousness or power of motion
I believe when people think of life or spirit they are thinking of a human being or possibly an animal. I can already hear the environmentalist stating that a lake is full of life, that life being animal or plant based. Yes they have a point that “endowed with life or spirit” does refer to animals but if an animal was to be endowed just like human life the courts would be full of cases. Right now in our legal system animals are considered property.
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit group based in Pennsylvania helped write the ballot initiative. Their executive director Thomas Linzey believes that Lake Erie and then if we follow their logic any lake, pound or stream and for that matter any inanimate object that might have life in it:
possess independent rights to survive and be healthy…There’s no precedent for any of this. It is almost a new consciousness — that a community is not just Homo sapiens.
Do they have any legal standing, we will see.
Back in 1972 Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas wrote a dissent in the case of Sierra Club v. Morton. The majority of the court rejected a claim that the natural world has legal rights.
Justice Douglas wrote in his dissent:
Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation.
I can just imagine what our already full courts would be hit with if anything other than humans are given legal rights. There are avenues today in the law which allow governments in the United States to sue people and companies for polluting, why is that not enough for the environmentalist.
Why is that not enough, because their agenda goes much farther than their concerns for lakes.