It doesn’t seem controversial that personhood means “the status of being a person.” But in a world redefining everything from recession to morality, the meanings of person and personhood may be under attack. Now Spain’s Senate has granted legal personhood to what environmentalists say is Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon.
The new law codifies (makes into law) the lagoon’s right “to exist as an ecosystem and to evolve naturally.” It also recognizes Mar Menor’s alleged right to protection, conservation, and restoration.
The water-as-person measure is a first in Spain. But it’s not the first time a non-human received personhood rights. In 2017, New Zealand passed a law granting personhood status to the Whanganui River. The Yurok tribe granted personhood to California’s Klamath River in 2019. Colombia, Bolivia, and other places have also conferred personhood on water.
In September, more than 600,000 citizens in Spain voted to request personhood status for Mar Menor lagoon on Spain’s southeastern coast. The grassroots group hopes the legislation will provide better protection for the threatened ecosystem.
Mar Menor is home to several species of fish, seahorses, and the endangered European eel. The 84-square-mile lagoon is separated from the open sea by a thin strip of land 13.7 miles long. The area is a popular vacation spot dotted with hotels.
For years, ecologists and citizens have criticized the recurring die-offs of marine life in the lagoon. Mar Menor’s deterioration is due to coastal development, poor sewage management, mining, and fertilizer runoff.
Everyone should care about clean water—not out of worship of the creation but out of respect for the Creator, love for people, and a desire to reduce human suffering. But what does conferring “personhood” truly communicate about the lagoon? And what does it communicate about the value of humanity? Is this an example of true wisdom, or foolishness?
In 2019, over 50,000 people marched in the nearby city of Cartagena to denounce the horrible condition of the lagoon. This month, Spain’s government approved $19.7 million in aid to improve water treatment in towns near the Mar Menor as part of a recovery plan for the body of water.
“So that natural disasters like those that have occurred, so that the episodes of mortality of fauna of the Mar Menor don’t return, let’s give this ecosystem its own rights,” Senator María Moreno announced before the Senate vote.
The legislation will allow a total of 994 square miles comprising the lagoon and nearby Mediterranean coastline to be legally represented. A group of caretakers made of local officials, local citizens, and scientists nearby will represent the water’s interests.
Why? Loving people like Jesus means caring about how the environment might support or harm them. We should never forget that humans deserve a fuller, prioritized favor because they are image-bearers of God.
1st Comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!/ This is Bella
Wow, that lagoon is spoiled! I mean, it's really good that they are taking care of God's creation, but does anyone else feel like they're going a bit too far?! Like, you know, it's own representatives?! It just seems wrong! XD
Me: Hey Lagoon how ya doin?
Me: Ok wanna have some burgers?
Me: Ok, fine you can just watch me then (hehehe)