We are in the midst of a planetary emergency and the search for tools that enable a shift of the way humanity interacts and relates to the rest of Nature are of existential matter. The fossil fueled industrial modern societies are planned according to a world view where we as human beings perceive ourselves as separate and superior to the rest of Earth’s web of life, with a limitless right to dominate, control and exploit. What happens if we instead acknowledge that the survival of humans is intimately connected to the intrinsic rights of Earth’s living systems to live and thrive? What development for transition would be made possible?

According to the two latest reports from IPCC (2022) and IPBES (2019), which summarize the climate and biodiversity research, it is necessary to use system innovations on a cultural- and legislative level to protect and restore  life supporting aquatic ecosystems. Recognizing Rights of Nature (RoN) in legislation is a system innovation that has been tried around the world with unexpectedly good results in dealing with complex environmental issues. However, there is still much work to be done when it comes to how to understand RoN, how to justify it morally, and how to implement RoN locally, if it will have global impact.

The main purpose of the research project is to analyze how Rights of Nature may be understood and possibly integrated into Swedish law and what sustainable development (welfare innovations and ecologically sustainable entrepreneurship) it would make possible. We will specifically explore the process of making Vättern a legal subject - thereby analyzing what forms of societal transitions are possible if nature was acknowledged to have juridical and accompanying moral rights. 

In the six Transition Labs that the team is organizing throughout the project, we will examine how the situation for Vättern would change if the lake’s intrinsic rights were legally recognized in Swedish law. Could this recognition guarantee the lake’s well-being and survival as a life-supporting system? This project aims to explore the ways through which a democratically just transition can be supported. It examines how the reshaping of environmental culture and laws can enable the legal recognition of non-human living systems as legal subjects. The project places emphasis on how the rights of Nature have been used in the past and could be used as one of various mechanisms that together address a complex set of environmental issues on local, national and international level. These issues need a systemically transformative approach to democratic governance and thusly require a combination of systemic innovation and re-discovery of our true place within Earth’s web of life. We investigate the implementation of the rights of Nature and their legal, institutional, ecological, social, cultural, moral, ontological, and epistemological dimensions through digital visioning techniques (maps, apps, speculative design) as well as digital back casting techniques (modelling, generation walks) organized as workshops.






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