It’s Friday, November 12, and the “rights of nature” movement is gaining ground.

A federation of Kukama Indigenous women in Peru is waging a legal battle against threats to the natural world. In a lawsuit filed in September, the group, Huaynakana Kamatahuara Kana, demanded that the Peruvian government recognize the legal rights of nature by granting the Marañón River the right to exist, flow, and “live free from contamination.”

The lawsuit follows decades of pollution from a long list of foreign oil companies. Over the years, oil spills and drilling in the Amazon Rainforest have degraded the Marañón River’s ecosystem and harmed its fisheries, jeopardizing one of the Kukama’s main sources of food, water, and transportation.

“We do not live on money,” said Isabel Murayari, a board member of the women’s federation, in a statement. “We live from what we grow on our land and our fishing. We can not live without fish.”

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The plaintiffs want the Peruvian government to recognize Indigenous organizations as guardians of the Marañón River, giving them agency to influence river-related decisions alongside government agencies. They also want Petroperú, the state-owned petroleum company, to repair and maintain its nearby North Peruvian Pipeline.

The lawsuit is the latest in a surging movement to grant legal rights to nature. In South America, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia have already recognized the rights of nature — in Ecuador’s case through a new constitution — and campaigns have sprung up in other countries including Canada, Mexico, Bangladesh, and Uganda.

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If successful, the Kukama women’s lawsuit would grant legal personhood to the Marañón River, a huge win for activists who are trying to reshape humanity’s relationship with the natural world. “What this movement is creating is a whole new system, a new philosophy and way of thinking,” Gustavo Hernández, an anthropologist and expert for the United Nations’ Harmony with Nature Program, told Inside Climate News.

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