“Wrongdoing is seen as a symptom of a breakdown in relationships within the wider community…”

This quote is from an article that was published in Orion Magazine in 2008, called “If Nature Had Rights”.   The statement was used to describe the philosophy behind the judgment passed by the elders in a Kenyan village  in a in a trial to determine whether there was wrongdoing to a hyena killed by a farmer after he had caught the hyena eating his goats.  Considerations in the hyena’s defense that were explored, as told by a friend of the author, were facts like the hyena was a mother with suckling pups, there was a drought and therefore a shortage of food, and thus, her attempts to find food in the human settlement was reasonable.

It was explained that the concern of African customary law lay in the bringing of restorative justice, as oppose to retribution, and that “wrongdoing is seen as a symptom of a breakdown in relationships within the wider community…”

It is interesting to think about how this concept would apply to our own society.  Whereas  we are more accustomed to having laws that protect the sanctitude of property,  how could things be different if we were concerned about relationships as a whole and finding ways to repair and rebuild those relationships where breakdowns occur.  If we had more consideration for the rights of nature, how would this change our on not just environmental issues, but societal ones, as well?

Examining our relationship to the natural world seem to be the first step to creating this awareness.  If we pay more attention to our relationship with nature, we will be able to more aptly judge where “wrongdoings” occur and justice would be less about finding fault, and more about rebuilding those breakdowns in our relationships within the wider community.

Here is a link to the article:


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