The Politics of Rights of Nature

Strategies for Building a More Sustainable Future

By Craig M. Kauffman and Pamela L. Martin

How Rights of Nature laws are transforming governance to address environmental crises through more ecologically sustainable approaches to development.





How Rights of Nature laws are transforming governance to address environmental crises through more ecologically sustainable approaches to development.

Forthcoming from the MIT Press

The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

With the window of opportunity to take meaningful action on climate change and mass extinction closing, a growing number of communities, organizations, and governments around the world are calling for Rights of Nature (RoN) to be legally recognized. RoN advocates are creating new laws that recognize natural ecosystems as subjects with inherent rights, and appealing to courts to protect those rights. Going beyond theory and philosophy, in this book Craig Kauffman and Pamela Martin analyze the politics behind the creation and implementation of these laws, as well as the effects of the laws on the politics of sustainable development. 

Kauffman and Martin tell how community activists, lawyers, judges, scientists, government leaders, and ordinary citizens have formed a global movement to advance RoN as a solution to the environmental crises facing the planet. They compare successful and failed attempts to implement RoN at various levels of government in six countries—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, India, New Zealand, and the United States—asking why these laws emerged and proliferated in the mid-2000s, why they construct RoN differently, and why some efforts at implementation are more successful than others. As they analyze efforts to use RoN as a tool for constructing more ecocentric sustainable development, capable of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goal of living “in harmony with Nature,” Kauffman and Martin show how RoN jurisprudence evolves through experimentation and reshapes the debates surrounding sustainable development.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262542920 290 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 8 b&w illus.


  • “Kauffman and Martin's comprehensive book demonstrates that like the Laws of Nature, the Rights of Nature should be real and ineluctable.”

    James R. May

    Special Representative on Rights of Nature, International Council of Environmental Law; Distinguished Professor, Widener University Delaware Law School

  • “A thoughtful, incisive analysis of one of the most extraordinary legal revolutions of our era, the extension of rights to nature. In light of the global environmental crisis, timely and essential.”

    Dr. David Boyd

    UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; author of The Rights of Nature

  • “Weaving together captivating stories of community advocacy, this trailblazing book explains why everyone should be wildly cheering the rising power of Rights of Nature.”

    Peter Dauvergne

    Professor of International Relations, University of British Columbia; author of AI in the Wild and Environmentalism of the Rich