Rivers are so cool. You can boat on them, swim in them, jump into them from rope swings while stoned and wearing jorts. But haven’t you always wanted to grab a drink with a river? Introduce it to your girlfriend, see if it wants to come with you to see Merle Haggard? Well, New Zealand’s Whanganui River is officially a person now, so go ahead.
To be fair, the river might still have a hard time drinking a beer. But it does get some legal benefits for being a person, such as official custodians — New Zealand’s government and the indigenous Whanganui iwi — and status as “an integrated, living whole,” i.e. don’t treat it like a toilet for fertilizer. We assume it will also be able to influence American elections, since that’s what happened last time a non-person got legal personhood status.
We are not New Zealand river-person experts, but we do know that this decision comes after a 140-year battle in court between the Whanganui iwi and the New Zealand government. We’re going to guess that the Whanganui iwi looked at their own situation since the arrival of James Cook in 1769 and the subsequent general disrespect to their people, and were hoping to keep the river from a similar fate.
Well, they have definitely done the right thing in giving it personhood status. After all, people always treat their fellow human beings with unerring respect.
New Zealand's Whanganui River is Granted Legal Personhood Status, Inhabitat.