QLE.20.022 – Empowering Nature: New Rights, Relations and Responsibilities

Route: Quality of the living environment

Cluster question: 002 What do humans and nature mean to each other and what is the ideal relationship between the two?

With the current rate of destruction of nature, humanity stands at a crossroads. Authoritative studies on global biodiversity, climate change and environmental degradation point at the world reaching a tipping point, and call for systemic changes. These changes are also urgent in The Netherlands. Empowering nature is crucial for the transitions that need to be made. Unless societies learn to recognize and care for nature and the profound socio-nature interdependencies, the prospects for future generations are bleak.
Rights of Nature (RoN), historically rooted in territorially-based cultures and knowledge systems, have recently emerged as an innovative intercultural approach to empower nature and socio-nature commons. This radical idea is praised worldwide from the UN to Pope Francis and the IACHR. Next to enhancing environmental justice claims of local groups, RoN can support transformative society-science alliances with insights and tools to protect ecosystems and biodiversity. Concrete RoN initiatives in Latin America, India and New Zealand have much to offer for emerging initiatives in The Netherlands and Europe. These approaches go far beyond a ‘new environmental legality’: they open up innovative ways for pluralistic valuation, research and education, conscientization, mobilization and policy-and-practice-making in socio-nature relations.
This project interconnects universities, policy institutes, NGOs, grassroots collectives and lawyers in The Netherlands, Colombia and Ecuador that will jointly study and concretize how to empower nature. It addresses multiple new tools and dimensions’ valuation, modelling, mapping; cultural, legal, social, political, technological – interrelated in a framework of socio-nature commons and RoN. A key research method will be participatory Environmental Justice Labs that engage all relevant stakeholders in innovative (grounded and virtual) platforms to share values, ideas and knowledge, and co-create instruments for sustainable socio-nature relations. Through transnational integration, the mutual learning among South and North will extend the project’s reach beyond the three countries.


environmental justice labs, multi-dimensional tools, Rights of Nature, Socio-nature commons, transdisciplinary approaches

Other organisations

policy-making and practice-making partners, Wageningen University and various national and international research


Organisation University of Amsterdam (UvA)
Name Prof. dr. B. (Barbara) Hogenboom
E-mail b.b.hogenboom@uva.nl
Website https://www.uva.nl/profiel/h/o/b.b.hogenboom/b.b.hogenboom.html