Residents on the shores of Lake Erie, the 11th largest lake in the world, have voted in favour of handing the body of water the same legal rights as a human being in potentially revolutionary legislation.
The measure – which passed with nearly two thirds of the vote in the lakeside city of Toledo, Ohio – guarantees the right of Lake Erie to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve” free from pollution, and affords the local community the power to sue anyone who should breach those rights on the lake’s behalf.
Lake Erie, the fourth largest of the Great Lakes, joins a host of other natural habitats in the likes of New Zealand, Colombia and India, to have their rights recognised in law, but represents the first instance in the US.
The Lake Erie Bill of Rights states that Lake Erie, which provides drinking water to 12 million people in the US and Canada, and is responsible for feeding Niagara Falls, “has suffered for more than a century under continuous assault and ruin due to industrialisation”. The bill warns that the lake, which has Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo on its shores, is in “imminent danger of irreversible devastation”.