There’s a growing push to give nature legal rights, but what would that mean?

By environment reporter Nick Kilvert

Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, Papatuanuku: different cultures have long used human metaphors to define nature.

But while there's evidence that anthropomorphism can help foster empathy and respect for the environment, there's a movement of people arguing that metaphors don't carry the legal clout needed to ward off what the UN has described as an impending "planetary catastrophe".

In a paper published in Science this week, ecologist Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences outlined the case for enshrining the legal rights of nature in law; an equivalent of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the natural world.

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