Question: To which have humans, in our finite wisdom, granted more protection: nature or corporations? To answer I must invoke the Scalia Rule, which posits that a nation with a Justice named Scalia protects the rights of corporations far more vigorously than the rights of nature.
In Scalia countries, corporations are persons with rights of speech and religion. They even have special privileges – such as the right to buy entire politicians – unavailable to ordinary people. As for nature, the Book of Genesis, which some believe the foundation of our Constitution, gives people “dominion . . . over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
This is increasingly not true in other countries – and even some U.S. communities – where the idea of “ecosystem rights” is taking root. The first was Ecuador, which incorporated the rights of nature – including its “right to be restored” – in its 2008 constitution. Lest you think this is some mystical-preindustrial-voodoo-noble savage hocus pocus, the section was written by Thomas Linzey, a central Pennsylvania lawyer.
And listen to William O. Douglas’ stirring dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton (1972): “The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled . . . [and] before these priceless bits of Americana (such as a valley, an alpine meadow, a river, or a lake) are forever lost or are so transformed as to be reduced to the eventual rubble of our urban environment, the voice of the existing beneficiaries of these environmental wonders should be heard.”