The Expert Witnesses

Testimonial: Peter Akkerman, chairman of foundation Bos dat van zichzelf is (Forest that owns itself).

Peter Akkermans testimony:  

If I ask you: whom do you belong to? To yourself or also to your partner, children, employee or yet others?

And to whom do the trees belong? Can they also belong to themselves and each other?

Strange really, that all nature in the Netherlands is owned by someone, man. Possession means you can do what you want with it. Just like slaves used to be property. Fortunately, that has now been abolished. But it would be nice if the same could be done for nature, for instance by giving nature rights. Surely nature also has as much right as we do to be there and live under good conditions?

That's why I and a group of young people started the foundation bos dat van zichzelf is (Forest that owns itself). To give the forest back to itself forever. This is also described as such in our statutes.

We do this in three ways:

  • By removing forest from the market and improving the local ecosystem.

  • By taking action to give forest rights

  • By bringing about one mentality change in society about man's relationship as part of nature.

And, of course, to inspire others to do the same.

We have already started with a pilot forest on Zonheuvel estate in Doorn that we will give back to itself for 10 years and hopefully forever thereafter. But a lot still has to happen before we can actually grant rights to this forest, fortunately, we are young and still have plenty of time for this. This lawsuit is a nice next step.

We are putting nature's rights into practice with our initiative. This first step is relatively easy because we are starting with a small piece of forest where there are fewer interests at stake than with, say, the Maas or the North Sea. And hope to make this the first area in the Netherlands to be given rights and set a precedent for all those other initiatives.

But is there already a precedent for our initiative in the Netherlands? Yes indeed!

On 16 April 1576, William of Orange, partly on behalf of the government, issued the Act of Redemptions. This act stipulated that the Hague Forest would be preserved forever. The treaty stated that no more trees could be cut down in the Hague Forest. It even provides protection against felling by the state. This still applies today and the forest is still there.  The only times felling took place was during the occupation by the French and Germans.

Natural rights is the way to protect nature in an equal way. And become human again as part of nature. Also, this helps the trees! Because if this realised, there will be no need for foundations like ours to give rights to specific pieces of forest, because all nature will have rights. Then all nature in the Netherlands will be well regulated at once.

Humans now have rights, and non-human entities like corporations do too. Let us now take the step of giving rights to nature as well. To see nature as equal to humans, not subordinate. After all, we desperately need each other to face the great crisis of biodiversity, climate, environment and food security.


Expert witness: dr. UGW Ute Sass-Klaassen, forest ecologist

Video with explanations of her findings.