An extremist environmental group, with the help of a Denver lawyer, has filed a federal lawsuit naming Governor John Hickenlooper as the defendant and the Colorado River as the plaintiff. In other words, the lawsuit asks the court to treat the river as a person. The NY Times reports:

The suit was filed Monday in Federal District Court in Colorado by Jason Flores-Williams, a Denver lawyer. It names the river ecosystem as the plaintiff — citing no specific physical boundaries — and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper liable for violating the river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve.”…

Because the river cannot appear in court, a group called Deep Green Resistance is filing the suit as an ally, or so-called next friend, of the waterway.

If a corporation has rights, the authors argue, so, too, should an ancient waterway that has sustained human life for as long as it has existed in the Western United States.

Deep Green Resistance has a website which states openly that its goal is the end of civilization:

  • Life on Earth is more important than this insane, temporary culture based on hyper-exploitation of finite resources. This culture needs to be destroyed before it consumes all life on this planet.
  • Humanity is not the same as civilization. Humans have developed many sane and sustainable cultures, themselves at risk from civilization.
  • Most people know this culture is insane and needs radical change, but don’t see any way to bring the change about.
  • Unlike most environmental and social justice organizations, Deep Green Resistance questions the existence and necessity of civilization itself. DGR asks “What if we do away with civilization altogether?”

To achieve this, the group advocates for “Decisive Ecological Warfare” waged by public groups working behind the scenes with underground groups of saboteurs. Here you can read the group’s plans for “Sabotage and Asymmetric Action“:

In this phase, the resisters might attempt to disrupt or disable particular targets on an opportunistic basis. For the most part, the required underground networks and skills do not yet exist to take on multiple larger targets. Resisters may go after particularly egregious targets—coal-fired power plants or exploitative banks. At this phase, the resistance focus is on practice, probing enemy networks and security, and increasing support while building organizational networks…

In this alternate future, aboveground activists in particular take on several important tasks. They push for acceptance and normalization of more militant and radical tactics where appropriate. They vocally support sabotage when it occurs. More moderate advocacy groups use the occurrence of sabotage to criticize those in power for failing to take action on critical issues like climate change (rather than criticizing the saboteurs).

This is only phase 2 of the group’s plan. Phase 3 is titled “Systems Disruption” and involves destroying electrical, transport and financial systems. This, the group says, will necessarily result in lots of jailed or dead environmentalists:

The onset of decisive and serious action will mean a high attrition rate for resisters. There’s no point in being vague; the members of the resistance in this alternate future who are committed to militant resistance go in expecting that they will either end up dead or in jail. They know that anything better than that was a gift to be won through skill and luck.

So, the group behind this lawsuit is pretty extreme, to put it mildly. In fact, I hope DHS is aware of this group and monitoring their activity. In any case, their goal is not better ecological management it’s literally the end of civilization.

The problem with the lawsuit, of course, is that corporations have rights because the people who create them have rights. The Colorado River does not because it was not the creation of a person or group of people. The Times article opens by focusing on the potential upside of this lawsuit’s success, “allowing the redwood forests, the Rocky Mountains or the deserts of Nevada to sue individuals, corporations and governments over resource pollution or depletion.” The piece ends by noting there could be a problem in deciding where such rights end:

Mr. Flores-Williams responded to criticism that his argument, if successful, would allow pebbles to sue the people who step on them.

“Does every pebble in the world now have standing?” he said. “Absolutely not, that’s ridiculous.”

Yes, it is ridiculous, but when you’re dealing with an extremist group that wants to end civilization by sabotage, what do they care about whether it’s ridiculous or not. If they could bring a lawsuit against an oil company CEO for the offense of treading on the earth, they would do it.