Nature Is Becoming a Person

Justin E. H. Smith in Foreign Policy:

Inbred, feral, and hungry, the “cocaine hippos” of Colombia took to the rainforests after liberation from Pablo Escobar’s menagerie at the time of the drug kingpin’s death in 1993. From an initial population of four, the hippos are now a fast-growing nuisance numbering over 100. Yet they are also the stuff of legend and an obvious favorite in a popular culture ever in search of quirky, new animal mascots.

In part because of their singular fame, a symbolic impediment to treating them as a common invasive pest was introduced in October, when a U.S. judge recognized their status as “interested persons,” which at least (in principle) enables them to exercise their legal right to obtain information in a U.S. legal trial. This ruling is not enforceable in Colombia, but it is a milestone in U.S. law and pushes the idea that the Earth is a political community composed of all sorts of “persons”—only some of whom are human.

Escobar’s hippos are far from unique (at least with respect to their claim to personhood).

More here.