The No Interest Argument and the Rights of Nature

  • Neil William Williams (University of Roehampton)


This is an accepted article with a DOI pre-assigned that is not yet published.

Awarding rights to rivers, forests, and other environmental entities (EEs) is a new and increasingly popular approach to environmental protection. The distinctive feature of such rights of nature (RoN) legislation is that direct duties are owed to the EEs.

This paper presents a novel rebuttal of the strongest argument against RoN: the no interest argument. The crux of this argument is that because EEs are not sentient, they cannot possess the kinds of interests necessary to ground direct duties. Therefore, they cannot be legitimate rights-bearers. After considering and rejecting standard responses to this argument, the paper challenges its fundamental assumption: that rights-correlative duties must be grounded in the interests of the rights-bearer. The paper then presents the RoN critic with a dilemma. The critic must either accept that EEs are legitimate rights-bearers or delegitimise many well-established rights-bearers along with EEs. Either way,the no interest argument loses its force.

Keywords: Rights of Nature, Environmental Law, Natural Rights, Legal Rights, Interest Theory of Rights, Direct Duties

Accepted on
10 May 2024
Peer Reviewed