Right now I’m standing
on top of Lake Erie. Well, I’m actually on
a boat that’s on La- you know how that works. Recently the residents
of Toledo, Ohio voted to make Lake Erie a person. What does that even mean? All right, can we go back?
I think I’m gonna puke. Local activist Markie Miller is one of the human people
responsible for getting the Lake Erie
personhood initiative passed. Our premise was
to change the notion that nature is merely property, and that if you own the permit, that you get to destroy it,
to harm it. So by giving Lake Erie
its own set of rights, we have a better way
of enforcing protections. How far can this go? A lake is a person? What’s next,
is a swimming pool a person? Is a dog a person? Is a child a person? Do you see how slippery
this slope is? Well, much like,
you know, a child, we often have someone else speak
on their behalf. And I think that tends to be our relationship
with Lake Erie, that we become trusties
of this lake. You can be honest here,
I’m from Michigan. Anyone that’s been down here
knows the people here, they kind of march
to their own drummer. -Sure.
-Is this a sex thing? Definitely not at all. KOSTA:
So making a lake into a person is clearly a weird sex thing. But Markie and her fellow
conservationists have even more
selfish motivations. The toxic water situation
in Ohio that prompted the governor to
declare a state of emergency. TV REPORTER: Lake Erie, a major
source of drinking water, serves 400,000 people. We lost access to our drinking
water for three days. -It impacted 500,000 people.
-Mm-hmm. They couldn’t bathe, they
couldn’t touch the water. -Mmm. -You couldn’t do your
laundry, wash your dishes. -Uh, water became
-Keep going. Uh-huh. a really scarce commodity. -It wasn’t available.
-Ah! Oh, goddam, that’s good. We realized
how vulnerable we were. -And how precious
the resource was, -(grunts) that it could be taken away
just like that. -It is something that we enjoy,
isn’t it, as humans? -Yes. -Yeah.
-Do you mind if I just…? KOSTA: But is turning your lake
into a person really the best way
to protect it? Apparently so, according to the Community Environmental
Legal Defense Fund, which has successfully turned
nature into persons in places as exotic as Ecuador, New Zealand and Pennsylvania. Well, we describe it more
as the right to live, to flourish, exist,
be healthy. But, yeah, in our legal world
we use personhood rights. I mean what,
what is a person, Tish? Is this lake a person? It’s living. -It’s living, okay.
-Yes. Let’s go back. What about that river? Yeah, it’s living and there’s
life all around it, and in it and it’s living. Is this a person? -Oh, my God, Jesus, sorry.
That was– -(laughing) Why was that there?
Why was that in there? What do you say
to your critics that say this is absolutely
batshit (bleep) crazy? I don’t find this crazy at all, because corporations
have had personhood rights, so they’re not even
a living entity, and yet nature
that we depend on is not considered
having the same rights that we do
or that corporations do. KOSTA:
And there’s tons of opposition to giving Lake Erie the rights
of a person, from farms,
the state government, fishermen with IBS… basically, anyone else trying to get rid
of their toxic dumps. Found out that BP was basically
the sole funder of the campaign against
the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. -They spent– BP, yep.
-BP? Black people.
You know, I always knew. -Is that…?
-British Petroleum. British Petroleum–
can we cut that? Can we cut that part out? British Petroleum. They do have a refinery
not far out from Toledo, but I think that it was more
about, you know, not wanting this idea of rights
of nature to-to take off. -But, you know, we do live here.
-Mm-hmm. And we’re not going to sit back
and be poisoned. You know, Markie, I have
to admit, when I came here, I thought, I thought
it was bullshit, Markie. I kind of thought you were
this crazy woman who decided to make Lake Erie
a person. But here you are on the
battlegrounds, every day, fighting against
big agriculture, fighting against
the State of Ohio, fighting for this
beautiful body of water. The real hero here–
yeah, you a little bit– but even more so than that, I’m the one
who’s showcasing you. So if anything, I’m the hero. And that’s why
I love this story. So maybe a person
can make a difference. And maybe a lake
can become a person. And maybe it can even get
married to the handsome, sensitive correspondent
who saved it. I do. Because true love is pure, it is deep, it is clear, it’s perfect
and it tastes sweet. (gagging, groaning) Blech. Why didn’t you tell me there’s something wrong
with this water? (cheers and applause)