SYDNEY – A campaign was launched in Australia on Wednesday to push for citizenship to be granted to the Great Barrier Reef in order to strengthen protection of the world’s largest living organism.
The Change.org petition, addressed to the ministers of environment, citizenship and home affairs as well as Prime Minister Scott Morrison, highlighted that the Great Barrier Reef protects the country’s coastline and contributes about AU$6.4 billion ($4.5 billion) annually to its economy, as well as supporting 64,000 jobs.
“But despite her massive contribution to Australia, she’s still denied the one basic right of every Australian citizen – the right to live,” said the petition started by social media and entertainment publisher, LADbible.
The health of the Great Barrier Reef, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, has deteriorated in recent decades due to climate change, which also caused two deadly mass coral-bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.
The petition said that the ecosystem is being threatened by coal mining, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change inaction, and proposed that it be granted citizenship to grant it rights including the right to health, freedom from torture or inhuman treatment or punishment, the right to maintain own means of subsistence and the right to life.
In a 2017 world-first, the New Zealand government granted the Whanganui River legal personhood, giving it the same legal rights as a human being.
The Great Barrier Reef, home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of mollusks, began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of water warming and increased acidity due to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.