Hello Tree, I Am A Human Being!

Tom Szyszkiewicz has always been one of my favorite Catholic reporters. While I could not pronounce his last name if you paid me to do it, I find his writing remarkably insightful and astute. His articles are always intriguing, and he has a habit of exposing little-known facts about such subjects as why some Catholic dioceses have banned the distribution of Catholic Answers' Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics.

 He brings to light subjects that, if not for his investigative nose for news, would never make the light of day. So I shouldn't have been the least bit surprised to see his latest article in the American Spectator  entitled "Nature as a privileged minority," the content of which is so alarming that, if I had not known the reporter, I would have immediately thought it was a spoof. Believe me, it is not.

Just a few days ago, the people of Ecuador approved, by an overwhelming margin, a new constitution for their nation. To be precise, this is the 20th version of a constitution this nation has had in its short 178-year history. He quotes a line from this new constitution:

Persons and people have the fundamental rights guaranteed in this Constitution and in the international human rights instruments. Nature is subject to those rights given by this Constitution and Law.

Tom defines this statement as pure socialism and tells his readers that the document is filled with such concepts. He further informs us that the nation's Catholic bishops vocally opposed the proposal, before it was actually approved by the people, for three reasons:

. . .that through the ambiguous language of "reproductive rights" it would allow for abortion, that it allows for same-sex civil unions to have the same status as marriage, and that it doesn't allow parents the freedom to choose the schooling they think best fits their own children's needs. That last objection translates into the constitution requiring children to attend state-run schools.

So, you might ask, what in the world does this new Ecuadoran constitution have to do with me, with the pro-life movement in America and with our current struggles?

Glad you asked, as I was going to tell you anyway.

It seems that the public-interest law firm Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is the organization that the framers of this new constitution turned to for assistance in drafting language that would protect things of nature as persons. CELDF is located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and is in the business of focusing attention on the subject of why the physical environment should have rights of its own, including personhood.

CELDF describes itself as

the only public interest law firm in the U.S. that specializes in building a body of law focused on establishing rights for nature. In pursuit of that goal, the Legal Defense Fund has served as special legal counsel to over one hundred municipal governments across the U.S., and serves as a legal advisor to organizations and governments in other countries, including Ecuador, who are focused on driving similar laws into their governing frameworks.

To my mind, the work of this seemingly concerned public-interest law firm is based on a tenet that flies in the face of the natural law and the instruction each human being receives from God, as revealed in the Bible. For in Genesis1:26-28 we are told, "God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth. "

It is not logical, therefore, that plants, animals and ecosystems should be provided with the same status as a human being, be it in the law, in a national constitution or at any level. So as I was thinking about this new revelation from Ecuador, something else occurred to me. We already have plenty of precedents in the United States for further diminishing the respect due to the human person while continuing to elevate the status of thing such as birds, fish and trees.

In 2005, poachers stole sea turtle eggs from beaches on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The news report stated, "Anyone convicted of stealing the eggs faces up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine and the penalties can be handed out per egg," Department of Natural Resources Sgt. David Vaughn said.

In Massachusetts this past year, two men were found

guilty of one count of shooting and killing a bald eagle, commonly referred to as an American Eagle, in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (for the killing of the bald eagle). . .

Marianne C. Ophardt, a horticulturist for the Washington State University Cooperative Extension Office in Benton County recently wrote in the Tri-Cities, Washington newspaper that "senseless violence against trees" had to end.

My point is not that people should be irresponsible toward the environment and fail to care for that which God has entrusted to us. Rather that while there is public outcry about cutting the tops off of trees, shooting birds out of the air and stealing eggs from turtles, a daily body count in excess of 4,000 babies builds and builds. After all, human beings were entrusted with the earth; the earth was not entrusted with us!

It seems rather obvious to me that value systems are out of whack and that they get this way because people lose their sense of several things, starting with the awesome power of God and the intrinsic value of the human person. Each of us is blessed with the ability to serve God in many ways, and that does include saving animals from wanton destruction and not being destructive to our environment.

But when a greater emphasis is placed on the earth and her creatures than is given to the dignity of the human being, I can only think that Moloch has returned and that our preborn brothers and sisters are being offered on the altar of balancing the ecosystem. It is a frightening thought, to be sure, but not very far-fetched if one pays close attention to the ties between a few Americans and an entire nation, which is now setting a new path for humankind.

As Szyskziewicz points out in his article,

Ecuador's granting of juridic personhood to nature is unique in the world, but the country is not completely alone. Spain will be granting human rights to all 350 apes in its territory. Switzerland is telling farmers not to lop flowers off as they return from mowing their fields since those flowers have a right to exist as they are. The European Court of Human Rights will be hearing a case that could grant a chimpanzee the status of a person in Austria. And in an editorial watching amusedly as Ecuador begins its grand experiment, the Los Angeles Times reported that Australia, Italy, South Africa, and Nepal (which is also in the midst of writing a constitution) have all started looking at similar juridic person provisions.