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The weaknesses of our environmental laws stem in large part from the fact that legal systems treat the natural world as property that can be exploited and degraded, rather than as an integral ecological partner with its own rights to exist and thrive. This article analyzes the recent rise of a new generation of environmental laws which reject the ‘false dogma’ of ‘humans over nature’ and instead recognize our interconnectedness with the natural world and acknowledge its rights to exist, persist, and maintain its vital cycles. The article focuses on the transition from an anthropocentric approach, denoted by the ‘right to the environment’, to a biocentric approach constructed around ‘rights of nature’. This transition is evident in various new legal instruments – the Ecuadorian Constitution, certain Bolivian laws, and numerous ordinances of the United States – which incorporate and respect rights of nature, and grant legal rights to the natural world and enforcement rights to affected communities. These instruments serve as models for legal systems which can steer us towards more robust and effective environmental laws.
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