Whanganui River, New Zealand (credit: Wikicommons)
The nature writer Barry Lopez wrote elegantly about water in a series of essays known as River Notes. As one reader commented:
"...the book is full of mysticism about a man truly immersed in the world. Here, he slowly erodes and dissolves into the river, can talk to the trees, and to get the lowdown of a heron. The real magic is watching the narrator become subsumed until he becomes the moss on the tree trunk, the silent water drop on a heron's wing, and a note in the song of the river..."
From Lopez's viewpoint the river is a living organism that deserves attention and respect. In this, he channels the beliefs of many Native Americans and other indigenous people's around the world who water sacred. However, few places has gone quite as far as New Zealand has in declaring a river has 'rights' like people do.
Situated in New Zealand's North Island Te Urewera National Park is famous for its lakes, beauty, and forested treks. In a 'rights of nature' bill just passed by the New Zealand parliament, the Whanganui River, in the park, is now considered a living entity. Accordian to one parliamentarian, the legislation "recognises the deep spiritual connection between the native Whanganui iwi people and their ancestral river."
The new river legislation also provided funds for environmental clean-up and restoration of degraded sections of the river. Perhaps, Barry Lopez will be taking some more notes!