ABSTRACT

Rights of nature are increasingly being recognized in legal systems around the world. However, whether these rights can be justified is a matter of debate, as they provide legal claims for things that have not traditionally been considered deserving of rights. Fundamentally, this involves the debate between anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric views of what has non-instrumental value or deserves direct moral consideration. Anthropocentrists hold that only human beings have non-instrumental value or direct moral standing, while non-anthropocentrists hold that entities other than human beings can have non-instrumental value or direct moral standing. This chapter considers a possible way to overcome the debate by exploring the prospects for a “linkage argument” between human rights and rights of nature. Linkage arguments aim to show that one right (or type of rights) supports another right (or type of rights), so that if one is committed to the supported right (or type of rights), then one is also committed to the supporting right (or type of rights). Typically, both anthropocentrists and non-anthropocentrists endorse human rights, a set of basic moral claims possessed by all human beings. Thus, human rights offer a type of right that is embraced by both sides in common. Drawing on developments in human rights theory, this chapter attempts to develop a linkage argument that shows rights of nature are necessary or at least useful for the realization or implementation of some human rights, so that if one endorses these human rights, then one also has reason to endorse rights of nature.

The first section of the chapter attempts to outline a cosmopolitan conception of rights of nature. The second section discusses the structure of linkage arguments and conceptual apparatus for assessing these arguments. The third section develops two models of a linkage argument between human rights and rights of nature and examines the extent to which we can offer an assessment of these arguments. The chapter concludes that there are reasonable prospects for developing both weaker and stronger linkage arguments between human rights and rights of nature.