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The Rights of Nature

Rights of Nature - County Galway Film Screenings

CELT, in association with One Future Galway and EJNI,  were delighted to support the screening of the EJNI Rights of Nature film in 4 locations across County Galway during the month of March, raising awareness of the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss call for the Rights of Nature to be included in the Irish Constitution along with the Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment, and engaging with local communities across the region in urgent conversation with regards to steps needed to address the Biodiversity Crisis.

The Rights of Nature film is a short but powerful film shedding light on an emergent and transformative social movement in an area which is growing in strength locally and globally in order to address our biodiversity and climate challenges, as Rights of Nature offers us a way of re-thinking our relationship with nature – from one of dominance to one of sharing, caring, respect and interdependency.' 

Our four county events took place in …

8th March - An Gáirdín Ecology Center, Portumna

12th March - The Slieve Aughty Centre, Kylebrack, Loughrea

19th March - Galway Atlantaquaria, Galway City

26th March - Brigit's Garden in Roscahill, Oughterard 

What are the Rights of Nature?

The Rights of Nature has emerged as a powerful movement which is growing in strength locally and globally in order to address the twin crises of Biodiversity loss and Climate change.

If you were following the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity loss that concluded in 2022 you may be aware of the very compelling recommendation that arose from the process, that was the call to include the Rights of Nature in the constitution*

'The Rights of Nature Movement offers us a way of re-thinking our relationship with nature – from one of dominance to one of sharing, caring, respect and interdependency.' It can act as a catalyst to shift our thinking from an extractive economy towards a local, regenerative and circular economy. The idea of nature having rights is not new. Nature has rights. What is new is how we can intervene using a rights of nature lens to protect nature and to recognise the intrinsic rights of ecosystems and species to evolve, flourish and regenerate, as existing environmental laws have failed to do so. 

Despite the Irish Government declaring a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency in 2019, we know that all environmental indicators are moving in the wrong direction given that almost 85% of our EU protected habitats in Ireland are in poor condition, with half of the EU protected habitats and species in Ireland in decline and with over 60 per cent of Ireland's common birds on either red or amber lists. Furthermore the number of our pristine rivers has dropped from 564 to just 20 over the past 40 years, reported by EPA, with over half of all our rivers and lakes deemed in poor or bad condition.

Under a rights-based system of law, a river has the right to flow, fish and other species in a river have the right to regenerate and evolve, and the flora and fauna that depend on a river have the right to thrive. It is the natural ecological balance of that habitat that is protected. Just as the mackerel chases the sprat as part of the natural cycle of life, recognizing Rights of Nature does not put an end to fishing or other human activities. Rather, it places them in the context of a healthy relationship where our actions do not threaten the balance of the system upon which we depend, for clean air, water, healthy nutritious food and our day to day health and wellbeing. See more info below on the Rights of the River Shannon.

Rights of Nature - the movement

The Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss deliberated and reviewed the research and presentations from numerous professionals and agencies in the field of biodiversity loss which highlighted the urgent steps necessary to halt its decline. As a result they made 159 recommendations to the Government, which was adopted by the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action in December, and sent to the Government for implementation.  

In October 2023, Rights of Nature Advocate Peter Doran and Law Professor at Queen’s University Belfast, told Ireland’s Joint  Committee on Environment and Climate Action  that "Ireland is a nation of both human citizens and the more than human—all the ecosystems, the landscapes, the rivers, trees and mountains whose daily labour make our lives possible, make our rights meaningful, our economies possible.” Doran, who provided testimony on the Citizens Assembly proposals, questioned the effectiveness of more than 50 years of global environmental lawmaking. “With Six of Earth’s nine planetary boundaries like ocean acidification and ozone levels having been breached, Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction event, and climate change is accelerating,” he said.

As the JOCECA report will be addressed in the Dail on April 11th and we are asking for the public's support to speak to their TDs and to request the full implementation of the Citizens Assembly recommendations. The Assembly’s recommendations have already been highly influential in the development of the new legally binding National Biodiversity Plan, and leading for example, to the development of the role of Biodiversity Officers at County Council level.

Here in Galway County, the Galway Public Participation Network have also proposed a motion that Galway County Council would adopt a Rights of Nature approach in all future developments, as have other councils elsewhere. We hope these film screenings will serve to create greater awareness and educate our communities on the Rights of Nature movement and the importance of taking the action necessary now to address our climate and biodiversity crises. 

Across the world in the United States, Ecuador, India and New Zealand and many other countries there is a growing recognition that in order to adequately respond to climate change and widespread damage to nature we must recognise the interdependency of all life on the planet including human life and to change our ways to recognise the Rights of Nature allowing for all of life to flourish. 

For more information please visit -

And recent articles from Inside Climate News and BBC 

For more information on the film nights, 

please contact 087220972 or email

We  are very grateful for the support and financial assistance of both Galway City and County Biodiversity Officers, EJNI and all our screening venues. 


31 There should be a referendum of the people to amend the Constitution with a view to protecting biodiversity.

31 a. Human substantive environmental rights, e.g. a right to a clean, healthy, safe environment; a right to a stable and healthy climate; rights of future generations to these or other environmental right. 31 b. Human procedural environmental rights, e.g. the Aarhus rights regarding access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and justice in environmental matters 

31 c. Substantive rights of nature, recognising nature as a holder of legal rights, comparable to companies or people e.g. to exist, flourish/perpetuate and restoration if degraded; not to be polluted/harmed/ degraded. 

31 d. Procedural rights of nature, e.g. to be a party in administrative decision-making, litigation, etc. where rights are impacted/likely to be impacted

CA Background  & BL info 

In 2023 the Citizen Assembly in a response to tackling the urgent issue of biodiversity loss,  agreed 159 recommendations with 73 high-level recommendations and 86 sectoral-specific recommendations. 

The number of recommendations speaks to the scale and breadth of the problem of biodiversity loss in Ireland. 

  • a fundamental disappointment in the capacity demonstrated by the State to coherently and deliberately tackle biodiversity loss. The members wish to ensure that the problems are addressed from top-down and bottom-up, at policy and grassroots levels

The Rights of the River Shannon - 

On World Water Day, March 22, a commitment to campaign for a ‘Rights of Nature’ approach to be adopted for the River Shannon was placed on the United Nations Water Action Agenda.

This was part of a global campaign to protect the world's waters. The campaign seeks action to improve the health of the River Shannon for the benefit of the river and all human and non-human life that depend on it.

The group that registered the commitment to campaign for Rights of Nature for the River Shannon was made up of water protectors from local and national groups, as well as solicitors, barristers, scientists and academics. Among them is Jack O’Sullivan of Zero Waste Ireland, who said: “Our aim is to transform into positive action more than 50 years of neglecting our finest and greatest river, which has never been given our care and full attention. Instead, we have exploited it, used the River Shannon and its tributaries for the disposal of wastewater, allowed intensive farming along its banks, drained its marshlands, or built on the river’s natural floodplain, and then complained about flooding!”

Alison Hough, barrister and Lecturer in Law at the Technological University of the Shannon, said the purpose of this campaign is to bring together the individuals, communities and organisations that are interested in protecting the River Shannon and are interested in its protection.

“A radical change in our approach to our water bodies and wetlands is needed if we are to prevent catastrophic degradation and loss occurring in our lifetimes,” she said. “The Rights of Nature approach has the potential to reframe our institutional and systemic relationship with our water bodies, and it makes sense to start with our greatest river, the River Shannon.”

The Rights of Nature film highlights the dramatic paradigm shift in attitude to and respect for nature that is needed.

Objectives for the Rights of the River Shannon are:1) Drafting a declaration on the rights of the River Shannon.2) Building support with a coalition of NGO signatories to the declaration.3) Building support with the river communities up and down the Shannon.4) Forming a Community of Protectors/Guardians of the River.5) Beginning a campaign for national recognition of the rights of Ireland’s greatest River.

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