The ocean must be considered a “legal and living entity” with human-like rights to combat climate change, scientists suggest

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Did you know that the ocean contains about 78% of all animal biomass? That means, aside from plants and trees, if we were to measure the total weight of every animal on Earth, almost eight parts of it would be found underwater. This makes sense since 70% of the earth’s surface is water; hence most of its inhabitants must be sea creatures.



Unfortunately, what follows is that ocean degradation has the potential to damage 78% of all animal matter on earth. And we know these changes are happening — the ocean is warming and becoming more acidic due to fluctuations in the Earth’s CO2 levels. This does not bode well for our aquatic life, many of whom are extremely sensitive to such oceanic distortions. Yet we take the oceans for granted, treating them as both tireless sentinels and bottomless garbage pits. We expect them to accommodate every whim of human suffering, without end.

Is there a way to counteract this exploitation?

The Earth Law

The problem goes well beyond a few desperate turtles who manage to snare our eyeballs every now and then. To address the far-reaching impacts of human activities on the ocean, a group of concerned scientists has called for the ocean to be considered its living being, deserving of many rights and respects shared by humans.

“International law must evolve to reflect the ocean’s inherent rights to exist, flourish and regenerate. The health of the oceans is the health of people,” reads the commentary by these renowned scientists, who highlight the multitude of oceanic crises that humanity has caused over time, including overfishing, climate changepollution and habitat destruction.

Her solution –
law of the earth.

According to the publication, “Earth law, including the rights of nature, offers a way to center humanity as part of nature and to transform our relationship from domination and separateness to wholeness and mutual betterment.”

Put more simply, we need to stop looking at the ocean as something that provides us with a resource and instead as a “living thing” with which we must coexist. Scientists want us to respect and nurture our relationship with the ocean just as we would a neighbor.

A legal framework to protect the oceans

And no, that doesn’t mean the ocean has to pay taxes! This new perspective explains that when framing policy regarding the ocean, it is essential to make its needs one of the central points of discussion. Therefore, the ocean becomes in all respects a “living and juridical person with inherent rights and intrinsic value entitled to representation against guardians”.

The challenges they hope to overcome through this new perspective include understanding and addressing marine pollution, protecting and restoring ecosystems, achieving sustainable food supplies, and developing sustainable ocean economies, among others.

Of course, some of these challenges are harder to overcome than others. However, scientists are confident that this is the way to go. Because current initiatives such as the UN General Assembly in 2017, which declared 2021 to 2030 to be the UN Decade Marine Sciences for Sustainable Developmentseemed to have little measurable impact on the fourteenth Sustainable development Goal – life under water.

After all, what better solution than to love your neighbor?

This comment was posted in
PLOS biology last week and can be accessed
here.

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