The rights of nature have so far had two different histories: a theoretical one, grounded in Christopher Stone’s pioneering work, and a practical one, beginning in earnest with Ecuador’s 2008 constitution. Though these two strands of rights of nature have been in dialogue with each other, recently practice has outrun theory. This chapter argues there are now a dozen cases of rights of nature that are beginning to differentiate the movement in ways theory had not predicted. Far from being a monolith, the rights of nature turn out to be an ever-diversifying toolbox for achieving a growing number of goals.

This chapter is concerned with drawing several lessons from the expansion of rights of nature. In particular, it argues that the purpose of rights of nature laws varies widely across cases, and therefore complicates the idea that rights of nature are always about nature. Similarly, the assumption that rights of nature are part of a coherent and unified international movement is shown to be problematic. To establish these claims, the chapter focuses specifically on the case of Te Urewera, Aotearoa New Zealand, and also makes brief comparisons with the case of the constitution of Ecuador. These cases serve to show the variability of rights of nature and the usefulness of explicitly political frameworks for understanding them.