A Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands: Improving Wetland Conservation and Restoration to Meet Climate and Biodiversity Crises

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C. Max Finlayson, Gillian T. Davies

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Despite establishment of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971), and many wetlands conservation and restoration efforts at national and sub-national levels, wetland loss and degradation continue apace, and are part of a larger trend in ecosystem and biodiversity loss and degradation. The current paradigm for conservation of wetlands is failing to meet stated goals. In the context of climate destabilization, the need to reverse these trends is urgent. Often led by local and Indigenous peoples, a global rights of Nature movement is shifting the ethical and legal paradigm for the human-Nature relationship. As wetland and restoration professionals, how can we respond to larger trends? A group of wetland and climate scientists, through the SWS Climate Change & Wetlands Initiative and Ramsar Section, proposes a Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands with the goal of shifting our relationship with wetland ecosystems. Acknowledging inherent rights of wetlands and their legal personhood, as Indigenous people have done for millennia, and as many scientists and philosophers have done throughout history, returns to values and modes of thinking that modernity has typically pushed to the margins. In reconsidering our place in the community of beings making up the Earth community, we can restructure our relationships with wetlands. By embracing relational values with Nature, such as reciprocity, gratitude, responsibility, and acknowledgement of the personhood of Nature we shift decision-making away from exploitation, depletion, degradation and loss, and towards real conservation, restoration, re-wilding and remembering our integrated and relational presence as a part of Nature.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program