New Zealand: First River in the World to be Given Legal Human Status

Sufi Muslims Environmentalists
WANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Humanity evolves when we broaden our understanding of what it means to be alive. What does it mean to be sentient, conscious, and alive? Making life about more than just ourselves is an important key step in elevating human consciousness and also getting people to care about conservation and resource protection.

New Zealand took a giant leap for humankind when its parliament recently passed a bill honoring Whanganui River as a living entity. Sacred to the Maori people, the river will now be represented by two people, which is not that different from how minors are still represented through guardianship. It’s taken the Maori over 160 years to secure the rights of what they – and now all of us – see as a living body of water. That’s something U.S.-based Standing Rock activists could learn from in a losing fight against an oil pipeline.

Around the world, most people don’t care about the land and its resources — both are seen as something to control, possess and consume. If we can change how we see the land, if we can see it as alive, then suddenly it becomes more difficult to violate it. If we can change our relationship with the land, maybe we can salvage our relationships with each other, making it a little more difficult for people to control, possess and consume each other.

Muslim Reformer Shireen Qudosi

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