ColoradoRivergov

DENVER – In a lawsuit against the state of Colorado, a coalition of environmental groups are asking a federal court to grant “personhood” to the Colorado River.

Yes, what the abortion industry in America refuses to grant to unborn children, a lawsuit now is seeking for a river and its tributaries.

“Our system of law has failed to stop the degradation of the natural environment, and consequently, has failed to protect the natural and human communities which depend on it for their survival and livelihood,” states the complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Colorado by Deep Green Resistance, the Southwest Coalition and several individuals.

“Environmental law has failed to protect the natural environment because it accepts the status of nature and ecosystems as property, while merely regulating the rate at which the natural environment is exploited. Its failure can be seen from the worsening of climate change, the continued pollution of ground and surfacewater (sic), and the decline of every major ecosystem on the continent.”

It explains: “The Colorado River is one such ecosystem. Climate change is worsening Colorado River droughts, many of its tributaries have receded, and the river has been prevented from making its way to the sea. The Colorado River’s continuing existence, let alone its ability to continue to provide sustenance for both human and natural communities, is now at issue.

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“Faced with similar threats to important ecosystems, courts and legislatures around the globe have begun to create a new kind of environmental law, one that recognizes that ecosystems themselves possess certain rights, and which allows communities to sue on their behalf for damages caused to the ecosystem.”

The plaintiffs, therefore, explain they want the court “to recognize and declare that the Colorado River is capable of possessing rights similar to a ‘person,’ and that as part of that declaration, the Colorado River has certain rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve.”

That’s why “The Colorado River Ecosystem” is listed as a plaintiff in the case against the state of Colorado.

The complaint likens the status of the river to that of African-Americans and women who “became ‘visible’ to courts in the 1800s.”

The complaint continues: “Human language lacks the complexity to adequately describe the Colorado River Ecosystem. Any attempt to define it or account for the sheer amount of life made possible by it will necessarily be arbitrary.”

But as the case requires a definition, the complaint states: “The Colorado River Ecosystem is best understood as a complex collection of relationships. These relationships are nearly infinite. The most fundamental include the attraction between hydrogen and oxygen; the liquid, ice, and gas that water and heat create together; the irresistible paths fashioned by the interplay of mountain and gravity; and the climate born from the Sun’s energy and Earth’s atmospheric gasses.”

The complaint turns poetic: “If we begin with water, we see – high in the sky – water dancing as vapor on wind currents. When the dance brings enough water together, clouds form. As clouds pass over the high Colorado Rockies, water freezes and falls as snow. Over the course of winter, clouds contribute their stores of water and snowpack builds. In spring, snowmelt forms creeks and streams who are guided by mountains through canyons and valleys. Rare summer rains do what they can to join the snowmelt.”

It refers to the springs, gravity, stone faces, tree roots, red rock, deserts and moving waters.

The river basin covers 246,000 square miles and contains 25 “significant tributary rivers,” 139 species of butterfly, amphibians, mammals and “provides water for close to 40 million people.”

Courthouse News reported the request for personhood is similar to other court rulings that have declared such a status for corporations “for purposes of constitutional protection and enforcement.”

In the U.S. Supreme Court, rulings have recognized corporate personhood, “particularly in the realm of campaign finance,” the report said.

The complaint expounds: “The Colorado is 60 to 70 million years old and has enabled, sustained, and allowed for human life for as long as human life has been extant in the Western United States, yet the Colorado has no rights or standing whatsoever to defend itself and ensure its existence; while a corporation that can be perfected in fifteen minutes with a credit card can own property, issue stock, open a bank account, sue or defend in litigation, form and bind contracts, claim Fourth Amendment guarantees, due process, equal protection, hold religious beliefs and perhaps most famously invest unlimited amounts of money in support of its favorite political candidate.”

The Deep Green Resistance and its members bring the action as “next friends” of the river.

Individuals plaintiffs include Deanna Myer of Sedalia, Colorado; Jennifer Murnan of Longmont, Colorado; Fred Gibson of Colorado Springs; Susan Hyatt of Moab, Utah; and Will Falk of Heber City, Utah.

The existence of humanity is a threat, the complaint contends.

“The planet is on the verge of total collapse. To avert collapse, the destruction must stop. For the destruction to stop, institutions within the dominant culture must recognize the inherent worth of the natural communities who give us life. If American courts do not recognize the inherent worth of natural communities, the dominant culture will not change, and collapse will only intensify.”

The case cites the 1972 comments of Supreme Court Justice Douglas, who said “inanimate objects” need to have standing to sue.

The complaint argues a ship “has a legal personality … the corporation sole – a creature of ecclesiastical law – has been deemed to be an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases. The ordinary corporation has been repeatedly recognized as a ‘person.'”

The complaint states “one does not have to wax poetic to reasonably assert that a natural entity that has existed for millions of years as a complex ecosystem, and which created the Grand Canyon through its natural flow has, in many ways, respectfully, more volition or will than some of the dependent persons and entities that are currently represented by guardian ad litems.”

Successful campaigns for natural features already have been conducted in Ecuador, Colombia and New Zealand, the complaint states, as well as dozens of municipalities.

The case seeks the court’s recognition of the “next friend” plaintiffs and the designation of the ecosystem as a “person,” which would be “capable of possessing rights and securing those rights through enforcement and defense of those rights.”

On the last few pages, the case gets to its real targets: “Actions taken by defendant State of Colorado, to approve permits and issue other regulatory approvals for certain actions regarding the Colorado River Ecosystem, may violate those rights.”

It cites the 2015 breach of Gold King Mine, which released millions of gallons of water and an estimated 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into the drainage.

It also complains that the river is over-appropriated, meaning there are “rights” to more water than the drainage usually provides, and there are dams that “block the river’s flow.”

The plaintiffs seek permission to sue Colorado to take actions – or prevent actions – they believe would be “violations of the rights of the Colorado River Ecosystem.”

To Courthouse News, Meyer stated: “Without the recognition that the Colorado River possesses certain rights of its own, it will always be subject to wide-scale exploitation without any real consequences. I’m proud to stand with the other next friends in this lawsuit to enforce and defend the rights of the Colorado, and we’re calling on groups across the country to do the same to protect the last remaining wild places in this country and beyond.”

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