Perspectives on Rights of Nature in Santa Monica, California
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In 2013, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a Sustainability Rights Ordinance that affirms: “Natural communities and ecosystems possess fundamental and inalienable rights to exist and flourish in the City Of Santa Monica. To effectuate those rights on behalf of the environment, residents of the City may bring actions to protect these natural communities and ecosystems.” This is an example of an emerging environmental legal framework known as Rights of Nature, which is characterized by its recognition of ecosystems and natural communities as rights bearing entities, not rights-less property. In the United States, the philosophical implications of Rights of Nature may not concur with mainstream environmental discourses, although they do with less common discourses. Due to their professions, policy makers, city staff, and others in Santa Monica have had to come to terms with Rights of Nature, regardless of the environmental discourses they tend to use. For this report, six Santa Monica policy makers, staff, and advocates were interviewed about Santa Monica’s Sustainability Rights Ordinance. Discourse analysis was used to identify the most prominent environmental discourses used by the interview subjects. Connections were drawn between subjects’ thoughts and feelings regarding the v practical and philosophical implications of Rights of Nature and the environmental discourses that those subjects appear to use to think and communicate about environmental issues.