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Yes, you read that headline right. Lake Hart (along with Wilde Cypress Branch, Boggy Branch, Crosby Island Marsh, and Lake Mary Jane) are suing the State of Florida. This might seem silly (and it really is), but believe it or not laws protecting the “rights of nature” actually exist in some places, and lawsuits have actually been filed and upheld based on them in India, Columbia, and Bangladesh. India even went so far as to declare that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, as well as the Himalayan glaciers, glades and forests should be given legal personhood in an attempt to protect them from environmental damage.
And that is what Orange County, Florida is attempting to do. They have passed a “rights of nature” law that secures the rights of its waterways to exist, to flow, to be protected against pollution, and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. It also recognizes the authority of its citizens to file enforcement actions on their behalf. And that is exactly what is happening in the court case mentioned above. Certain citizens are attempting to enforce the act by suing the State of Florida on behalf of the aggrieved marshes and lakes. These citizens believe that a proposed housing development would infringe the rights of certain wetlands and streams by disrupting their hydrology.
Now personally, I don’t know whether or not this housing development would cause damage to the Orange County environment. Those are the kinds of things that government ecologists are supposed to determine, and citizens are supposed to address through their elected representatives. And if this development is going to pollute and cause damage, then perhaps it should not be built. That is something for local authorities to decide. What I do know, though, is that nature is not a sentient being, and does not have intrinsic human rights.
There are all kinds of religions that have become prominent in modern society. And these various religious beliefs have many different ways that they look at reality. Animistic beliefs actually do ascribe sentient qualities to nature. So what we have here is an attempt to use an understanding of reality that is based on Animism to create laws in a legal system that is based on a Theistic worldview.
Well, it just doesn’t work. These are two entirely different ways of understanding the very structure of reality. And you can’t combine the two. They literally contradict one another. Either nature is sentient or it is not. There is no in-between. If it is, then America’s entire legal system must be changed to allow inanimate objects to be recognized as having inalienable rights. If nature is not sentient, then it is not possible for it to have rights.
Now if citizens don’t like the way development is progressing in their communities, then by all means they should be able to make their voices heard. But lakes and streams? Really? How do these people know the desires of the streams? Maybe they would like to be free from having to constantly be flowing. Maybe the marshes are tired of misquotes using them for breeding grounds. How do people know? The whole thing is just silly.
God created reality to be structured in a particular way, and it is not structured in any other way. It is possible to imagine other structures (human beings have very creative imaginations), but that does not make these alternative structures real.
Of course, the nature of nature is not the only place people try to use their imaginations to create alternatives to actual reality. People are trying to do it by implementing Socialist economic and political policies. They are trying to do it by advocating social justice programs and substituting them for actual justice. They are trying to do it by advocating non-biblical theological systems that redefine the nature of God and of man.
But people can’t live in harmony with God, man, or nature when trying to live life based on a non-actual belief about the structure of reality. They will ultimately only bring on conflict and chaos – as we already see happening. The only remedy for this is to live based on actual reality – the kind expressed in God’s revelation in the Bible.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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