Australian council takes first step towards giving plants rights to protect them in the future
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A Victorian council has taken steps to establish plant rights in its planning processes and education campaigns.
The Herald Sun reported that The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council is now carving out the guidelines to consider the legal rights of plants in a move that's been described as the 'first of its kind'.
Councillor Debra Mar said that while there’s a biodiversity plan in place, there needs to be a policy protecting The Ninch’s unique ecosystem.
She told the publication: “They aren’t working. We’re losing our tree canopy. I hear chainsaws … I look out my [Mount Martha] windows and see rooftops where once I saw trees.”
She continued: “The future depends on what we do now … for nature and our communities.”
While the new policy might seem bold on paper, many are under the false pretence that trees will now be able to sue people.
Even though we’d be curious to see how this would take place in court, this is not the case according to Councillor Mar.
Instead, she advocates for nature rights to be considered for permits when vegetation is removed, lopped or destroyed.
Managing bushland in fire danger zones will also require a permit; however, home veggie gardens and crops are excluded from the list.
Mar added: “We’ve cleared too much wildlife habitat already.
"Honestly, if you chose to live in a bushfire zone then you have to accept the risk that comes with that.”
However, the initiative hasn’t been welcomed by everyone.
Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, Dr Bella d’Abrera slammed the idea as ‘wacky’ and criticised the council for suggesting that flora are more important than human beings.
She told Herald Sun: “Unfortunately, wacky ideas like these that have been dreamt up in universities have real-world consequences, especially when it comes to bushfire season.”
But co-founder and national convener of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance, Dr Michelle Maloney, told 3AW that it’s not necessarily a ‘radical’ idea.
She explained to host Neil Mitchell: “It’s a legal movement of people saying we’ve destroyed so much of the world...how do we realign human beings inside their unique places that they live?”
She added: “The big picture for rights of nature is ‘How do we live here forever?'”