WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Creating a “Bill of Rights” for nature is a new discussion among environmental activists in the North Country.

This topic will be discussed at the upcoming North Country Rights of Nature Symposium, which is set to take place on March 22, and lead conservation on environmental threats facing local waterways and the “Nature Rights” movement.

The ongoing “Nature Rights” movement is being led across the globe. According to Symposium co-organizers Tzintzun Aguilar-Izzo and Blake Lavia, it is where rights are created for natural elements, and moves away from viewing nature as a commodity, and instead valuing it as a living thing.

“There’s a dichotomy in which, and this vision of the world in which we all are living, natures viewed as it’s viewed as something that is owned by humans and the humans can exploit and use as they will,” Aguilar-Izzo.

Instead, Aguilar-Izzo said that Laws of Nature are formed to where if an environmental regulation is violated, a citizen or a community can represent a natural element, such as a waterway in court.

At the Symposium the goal is to discuss the moral implications of protecting waterways and lay groundwork for legislative action.

It will be moderated by the Voice of Rivers Committee and feature five panelists including Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Environmental Program Manager Abraham Francis, Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust Community Conservation Director Çaca Yvaire, International Rivers Latin America Program Coordinator Monti Aguirre, Mohawk Nation Council Bear Clan Mother Wakerahkáhtste “Louise McDonald-Herne” and Adirondack Diversity Initiative Executive Director Nicky Hylton-Patterson.

The group will tackle how the “Rights of Nature” can be applied in the North Country, specifically focusing on creating an “ecocentric” governance system. Additionally, a group of students will construct a “Bill of Rights” for the region’s waterways, including the St. Lawrence River watershed.

Discussion regarding Nature Rights are emerging more around the world, including locations in the United States such as in Pennsylvania, Orange County, Florida and Minnesota.

Currently, there are ongoing legal cases involving natural elements such as waterways suing state and local governments, which is Aguilar-Izzo said “shaking the ground” for environmental action.

But natural rights look different in each community. But both organizers agreed it is something to strongly consider in the North Country as it is connected to one of the largest freshwater sources: The Great Lakes.

“We need to start planting the seed and we need to start seeing them grow because we as communities up here hold a huge responsibility for the entire world since like we are very close to the Great Lakes,” Co-Organizer Blake Lavia shared. “Now we have the St. Lawrence River that brings the water from the Great Lake all the way to the ocean, and we really need to think about a way to protect it.”

And although two co-organizers have previously led events in the North Country discussing current and past environmental issues, they said the upcoming Symposium is a look to the future as the climate crisis hits the North Country.

“Reimagine a way to come together and work democratically. For us, the people to imagine a world in which we all decide, what kind of laws are in place and which we all participate in protecting this environment, that is the home for us now, but it will be the home for generations to come,” Lavia expressed.

The upcoming North Country Rights of Nature Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 22 over zoom beginning at 6:30 p.m., registration is open to all and can be completed on the event’s website.