Rights of Nature

Actors & initiatives


Rights of Nature

Actors & initiatives

Cultural Change: Creative Approaches and the Rights of Nature

by Imke Horstmannshoff

Rights of Nature mean and demand not only a legal paradigm shift, but also far-reaching cultural change: a change in human relations to their surroundings. The landscape of artists-activists who take up the cause is all the more diverse. In Europe, the formats used include among others sound artworks and theatre pieces, exhibitions, publications, arts-based research, workshops and other kinds of performative gatherings.

A Theatre for the Anthropocene

    In Germany and German-speaking countries, the Theatre of the Anthropocene, together with the Berlin-based RambaZamba Theatre under the direction of director Frank Raddatz, creates spaces for experience and discussion for other world views and human-nature relationships. With theatre plays such as Anwälte der Natur  (Lawyers of Nature, recently published by Henschel-Verlag) and scientific-artistic collaborations such as at the Congress of Futures (Berlin, 2023), RoN and the position of humans in the Anthropocene are made visible and discussed across disciplines.

    Theatre has a special role to play in the context of changing legal systems, both historically and in the present. As Frank Raddatz states:

    "In terms of content, the stage is interwoven with the law and its historicity. But also formally, by using aesthetic means to negotiate the procedural nature of law and thus its political, i.e. negotiable, dimension in front of an audience. Just as court hearings lend visibility to law, the scenic processes lend visibility to the narratives of myths and dramatic originals."

      A similar approach is being pursued with the International Rights of Nature Tribunals. The tribunals serve to bring urgent RoN cases onto the stage of their - non-binding, but fact-based - court proceedings, thus performatively creating 'precedents' for RoN hearings.

      Sound art & audio features

      In Germany, radio offers completely different spaces of experience: from interviews and book reviews to audio features, the public radio station Deutschlandradio, among others, has repeatedly produced programmes on the topic in recent years, which are now gathered on an overview page dedicated to RoN.

      A world view in which nature is not seen as an 'adversary' to be defeated or as a pool of resources to be exploited, is fundamental to the idea of RoN. Rather, nature is humans' 'more-than-human', living 'co-world':

      "As soon as we stop thinking of non-human beings as objects, that is, as soon as we grant them access to the collective in the form of new, not yet clearly defined entities that make us hesitate, tremble, perplexed, we can also easily grant them the label of actors",

      stated the French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. German radio author Barbara Eisenmann brings together him and other thinkers on the rights of nature in her audio feature Another Earth, another Globe, invoked by another People, in which she impressively sets the Ron's philosophical background to music.

      Acoustic means can literally give this co-world a voice:

      "What would the rivers of the world tell us if they could speak to us? And how do they communicate with each other?"

      In the six-part radio play series "Die Konferenz der Flüsse" ("The Conference of Rivers"), authors Frank Raddatz and Denise Reimann allow the rivers of the world to speak and discuss cultural and environmental history and the question of RoN, and ultimately proclaim the "aquacultural revolution".

        Embassy of the North Sea

        Such a gathering of water bodies has indeed taken place in Europe: Organised by the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (GARN), the Confluence of Water brought together the concerns of several European waters and their representatives in 2023 in the Spanish province of Murcia - in close proximity to the Spanish salt lagoon Mar Menor, the first natural legal subject of Europe. The confluence ended on 18 September 2023 with, among other things, a Proclamation of European Waters to the people of Europe in the European Parliament.

        The Dutch initiative Embassy of the North Sea has been involved in this, too. Calling for the North Sea and other natural ecosystems to be recognised as legal subjects, the embassy works with diverse means at the intersection of artistic approaches, diplomatic representation and journalism. Their road map to 2030: listening to the North Sea, speaking for it and negotiating on its behalf with diplomatic means.


          Further contributions

          Locally, people started initiatives and organised events (e.g. in the case of the British River Ouse) and walks (such as the Polish Osoba Odra initiative) to campaign for the recognition of rivers as legal subjects, others are working with moral imaginations in workshops; bestselling British nature writer Robert MacFarlane has already announced a book on the subject. Giving nature back its rights and changing the associated world view is - or should become - a task for society as a whole.


          Literature & Links