Can lakes have the same rights as humans?

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, February 28th, 2019 at 9:01 AM

Do you ever wonder how many rights a single human has? How about this: a physical lake with rights of its own. Toledo, Ohio has voted to put into law the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). 

These rights will deter pollution to Lake Erie’s ecosystem, effectively giving the lake the right to exist. A very small, yet growing movement known as “rights to nature” is heading up this endeavor to give legal rights to ecosystems. The local Toledo organization heading up the fight was Toledoans for Safe Water. 

So first, why Lake Erie, and why did Toledo, Ohio, push for this and not, say, Erie itself? Part of Toledo’s economy and a large portion of its water supply comes from Lake Erie. In 2014, Toledo went through a water crisis. A massive algal bloom caused large amounts of toxic chemicals to be produced in the water. Early on Aug. 2, Toledoans were told to not drink, bathe, or even wash their clothes in the water, because the toxins in the water could cause rashes, vomiting and even liver damage. The authorities told them that boiling the water would not work either. It would make the toxins more concentrated.

After a few hours, most of the bottled water supply was bought up. Toledoans would buy up water from as far as Delaware just to get clean sustenance. After three days, the alert was lifted, and the water was considered safe again.

After the 2014 water crisis, Toledo decided to upgrade its water treatment plant. Unfortunately, this did not ease the minds of its citizens. Algal blooms happen almost every year in the summer. These blooms are primarily fed by phosphorus, which is usually from agricultural runoff from farms. Other contributors are sewage and normal household detergents.

Toledo activists decided to fight back. They worked to get the Lake Erie Bill of Rights on the ballot, which after passing not only gives the lake the human right “to exist”, but also gives Toledo citizens the right to a healthy environment. According to, citizens can now sue on behalf of the lake, “whenever it’s in danger of major environmental harm.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau, on the other hand, was and is against LEBOR, stating that it’s threatening farmers and would make it harder for Toledo families to make ends meet.

What do you think? Should LEBOR be passed? Should a body of water have rights? Can you think of another alternative?

Beau Bruneau |

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