Protecting “rights of nature” is a legal movement that recognizes ecosystems have fundamental rights, including the right to exist, evolve, and thrive without interference from human-caused harms like pollution and resource extraction. In countries that honor the rights of nature, ecosystems such as lakes, rivers, and forests are treated like people, rather than property: They have legal standing in court, and “guardians,” including Indigenous peoples and conservation groups, may file lawsuits on their behalf. Today, dozens of countries, states, and cities recognize some rights of nature in their legal systems; however, despite some early successes, many of these laws remain untested.

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