Today is Endangered Species Day, an annual celebration created 6 years ago by the Endangered Species Coalition to tug at our sensibilities and help us appreciate Nature’s diversity. The Endangered Species Act, passed under Richard Nixon in 1973, stands as a milestone for the Rights of Nature movement. Species, at least endangered ones, are recognized as having some special value just for existing.
A baby horned toad in Santa Fe, cautiously enjoying the sun
Two weeks ago here in Santa Fe, our City Council voted to keep the Santa Fe River flowing a little bit through this very dry Spring and Summer. This is path-breaking for a river designated in 2007 as the Most Endangered River in America. The City has other sources of water (including a new $250m pipeline from the nearby Rio Grande) so it is not losing anything by being generous, but in the words of Councilwoman Patti Bushee, it is an important symbolic effort: “When do we recognize that some of the water belongs to the river?”
The Santa Fe River enjoying some of its own water
About the same time Santa Fe voted in favor of its river, UNESCO released a long-awaited assessment on Water Ethics and Water Resource Management. The study even mentions Aldo Leopold and the rights-of-nature concept, though unfortunately these themes are left out of the conclusions. The report does set a new standard for human ethics, however, staking out a position that goes far beyond economic cost-benefits and into issues of human rights.
Citizens in Pune, India, are dealing with their rights to a living river, and are resorting to a hunger strike to show their resolve. The Ram Nadi (nadi means river), though small, is important to the wellbeing of local residents who have mobilized against the severe pollution and building encroachments in the river’s floodplain. It is obvious to Ram Nadi activists that what is good for the river is also good for them. Click here for an account from the India Water Portal.
Construction debris in Ram Nadi (Photo by Ravi Karandeekar, from India Water Portal)