Frankly we are now in the embarrassing position of having little to say against the draconian blasphemy laws in Islamic countries when European countries also have blasphemy laws on their books. Ireland is a case in point on this. Irish atheists are trying to challenge the law which imposes a fine of up to 25,000 Euros on anyone who is guilty of "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion...” Michael Nugent, the Chair of Atheist Ireland said, “This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic states led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.” This quote is from the Guardian. As secularists we cannot object to Islamic governments supporting abusive laws punishing blasphemy if we do not have a clear notion that rights of necessity apply to people only.
A right is a liberty or privilege protected by the force of law. Rights do not exist as transcendental artifacts coming from a supreme being or our over active imaginations. Where does this leave the currently popular notion of nature having rights? I will argue that almost every legitimate right that would be in place from a theory that nature has rights can be derived from ascribing those rights to people.
We need to make it clear that people have a right to very limited pollution of their environment. People should have a right to expect that the vast array of services provided by the wider ecosystem will not collapse because capitalists do not want to pay for the devastation they leave behind in their quest for money. Our children should have a right to live in a world that has not been devastated by the early stages of a great extinction that will massively reduce the number of species in their future world.
I think most importantly we should have a right to have the food supply that is critical for the survival of humanity to remain intact. We should have a right to have the fisheries of the world survive into the future. We should have a right to be able to eat fish without ingesting unacceptable loads of mercury from coal fired power plants. We should have a right to see the Midwest, the bread basket of our nation, not be turned into a scrub desert due to global warming. We should have a right to have our beach-front property not be flooded out by a rising ocean. We should have a right to not see our forests destroyed by a vastly longer fire season caused by anthropogenic global warming.
Obviously by the time we list and enforce the all the rights that people should have we will have protected nature also. That is because our survival and positive well being is tightly linked to the preservation of the wider natural ecosystem within which we have evolved as a species.