The future of the Rights of Nature: An interdisciplinary scoping analysis

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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The Earth is facing multiple interdependent social and ecological crises including climate change, biodiversity loss and habitat loss, necessitating an urgent rethink of the ways in which humankind conserve and manage natural environments. In such a context, the proposal of recognising the rights of nature (RoN) offers a possible paradigm change in our approach to and relationship with nature. RoN is increasingly being recognized in laws, legal decisions, and declarations worldwide. The reasons for this are complex and place-specific, but relate to issues of social equity and representational justice, the (in)effectiveness and/or (non)enforcement of environmental regulation, and the pressing concerns for global socio-ecological challenges. RoN is seen by many as the paradigm shift needed to embed ecology and the environment into nature-based policy and management solutions to address biodiversity loss, climate change, and sustainable development.
Our scoping study highlights that despite its promising role to offer a revolutionary approach to our relationship with nature, academic research and funding have yet to engage meaningfully with this emerging field of research. Existing research projects are grappling with RoN from specific disciplinary perspectives and the truly transformative nature of this new approach to our environment must still be explored. Although rights of nature have been introduced in various countries across the world, research linking humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences is still lacking. As our report highlights, the potentially transformative impact of RoN on social and ecological systems warrants such interdisciplinary research. To fully understand how human beings and societies relate to the non-human environment, how to comprehend and act upon the obligations we have towards nature and to each other, and how to navigate and creatively re-think our social, legal, and political approaches to non-human nature, we need methodologies and approaches that transcend humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences as well as ones that can better link theories with practice.
To fill this gap, our scoping study offers first ideas and methodologies to undertake interdisciplinary research, notably between humanities, social sciences, and environmental sciences. The study suggests that recognising RoN could enhance local communities’ participatory role by recognising their ‘guardianship’ role towards nature, which could contribute to a better socio-cultural and ecological model of social-environmental governance, and as such could offer a solid platform to bring a real transformative approach to address some of the most urgent social-environmental challenges of our planet. To address these challenges, our report suggests common areas of focus for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, whilst also examining possible avenues to support the funding of this research. We also highlight the need for more research in a European context as research on RoN and how it could be developed in Europe is lagging behind compared to research in other parts of the globe. Due to the urgency of the social-ecological challenges at the heart of this research (e.g., biodiversity, climate change, sustainable development), the study highlights the required funding interventions that span a range of types, scales, and timelines to support the strong and growing pipeline of transdisciplinary research needed to understand, evaluate, and put into practice the potential truly revolutionary nature of RoN.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherArts and Humanity Research Council
Commissioning bodyArts and Humanity Research Council
Number of pages52
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2022


  • rights of nature
  • interdisciplinary
  • Ecology

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