According to a soon to be published book by CSVPA-member John Studley “Since time immemorial indigenous people have engaged in legal relationships with other-than-human-persons (OTHP) on the basis of contractual reciprocity or covenants. These relationships are exemplified in enspirited sacred natural sites which are owned and governed by numina spirits that place legal demands on humankind in return for protection and blessing. Although conservationists recognise the biodiverse significance of most sacred natural sites the role of spiritual agency by other-than-human-persons is not well understood. Consequently sacred natural sites typically lack legal status and IUCN designated protection. With the advent of a ‘systems view of life’ alternative approaches to other-than-human-persons have emerged under the aegis of ecocentric and posthuman world-views and polycentric legal frameworks. These approaches have allowed courts/ legislatures to grant ‘rights’ to nature (Pachamama) and ‘juristic personhood’ and standing to bio-physical entities. The aim of the book is to examine the indigenous literature, the author’s research in Tibet (1994-2013), and recent legal cases as a pretext for granting juristic personhood to enspirited sacred natural sites. It will be argued that juristic personhood is contingent upon the presence and agency of a resident numina and that recognition should be given to their role in spiritual governance over their jurisdiction. The book will conclude by recommending that advocacy organisations help indigenous people with test cases to secure standing for threatened sacred natural sites and calls upon IUCN, UNESCO (MAB and WHS), ASEAN Heritage and EuroNatura to retrospectively re-designate their properties, reserves, parks and initiatives so that SNS and spiritual governance are fully recognised and embraced”.
John draws on two decades of his research among Tibetans in Kham (SW China), to provide a detailed case study. He is an Independent Ethno-forestry Researcher and consultant, with many years of experience in the UK, China and Nepal.
John mentions that some reviewers consider it “novel”, “revolutionary” and “out of the box” so it might ‘ruffle a few feathers’. What are your thoughts on his proposition, findings? Do share your thoughts and comments.