World Wetlands Day: Shifting Our Paradigm to Support a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands

BSC has had a long history of supporting the Society of Wetland Scientists through staff involvement on New England Chapter and international SWS Boards, and the Board of the SWS Professional Certification Program, and through sponsorship of meetings. This involvement allows BSC staff to keep abreast of, and contribute to, the latest developments in wetland science, management, and policy by collaborating with wetland scientists, attorneys, and community members in New England and around the world, and then bringing this knowledge back to inform BSC projects. This is particularly valuable with regard to our growing Climate Adaptation & Resilience practice, which responds to the increasing demand and funding opportunities for Nature Based Solutions, Natural Climate Solutions and Natural Infrastructure.

Scientists from around the world are warning that current approaches to natural resource management and conservation have failed to alter our current trajectory of accelerating climate change and biodiversity and wetland decline and loss, predicting ecological collapse that has the potential to trigger societal disruption or collapse. Around the world, leaders are searching for new approaches, including aligning ethical and legal frameworks with knowledges from many Indigenous Peoples that recognize the living beingness and legal rights of Nature as a way of sustaining a livable planet. Globally, there is a long history of recognizing legal rights for elements of non-human Nature including in Roman law (jus naturale and jus animalium), and for recognizing humans as part of Nature, not separate from Nature.

One global leader in this area is Patricia Gualinga, historic leader of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku, Ecuador, who has advocated for recognition of the living beingness of the Amazonian primary forest through the Living Forest Declaration. Based on numerous similar examples from the growing global Rights of Nature movement, the SWS Rights of Wetlands Initiative (SWS ROW Initiative) has developed a proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands (#RightsOfWetlands), which has already garnered endorsements from several global organizations and is available for individuals to sign and organizations to endorse at

Patricia Gualinga will be joining Rights of Wetlands symposia with BSC staff Gillian Davies and other SWS ROW Initiative members at upcoming international conferences (Society for Ecological Restoration 2021 World Conference and INTECOL 11th International Wetlands Conference).

Text provided by Gillian Davies, PWS, SSSSNE, NHCWS, CESSWI President of Society of Wetlands Scientists – International & New England Chapter: President (Past), Chair WOTUS ad hoc Committee (Current) – Association of Massachusetts Wetlands Scientists: President (Past), Vice President (Past) – Inland Wetlands Adaptation Subcommittee to the EOEEA Natural Resources and Habitat Subcommittee: Chairperson (Past)