Newspapers around the world published last week, on November 20, an unusual story about a French court in the southwest of France which allowed a group of ducks in a farm to keep quacking, after neighbors filed a complaint to abort the noise they made. The complainants sought damages in the amount of 150 euros (P8,250) for each day that the noise continued, as well as 3,500 euros (P192,500) in damages and 2,000 euros (P112,750) in legal costs. The court ordered an acoustic audit to test the actual noise levels, to be carried out next year.
Earlier, last September, there had been a case, also in rural France, where neighbors sued the owner of a rooster named Maurice for crowing so early in the morning, but the court upheld the rooster’s right to crow in the morning to start its day.
The court cases have drawn national attention as a symbol of the battle between urban and rural France. More than this, however, they are seen by many quarters as a battle between the natural world of animals, trees, and other living things and the increasing encroachment and changes in the natural order inflicted by human activities.
Such human activities as widespread industrialization have caused such changes as rising world temperatures due to carbon emissions from factories, in turn causing the polar glaciers to melt and ocean levels to rise, and somehow generating stronger typhoons and hurricanes.
Our own Philippine Constitution acknowledges this importance of nature, with Section 16 of Article II “Declaration of Principles and State Policies” providing: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” Our Supreme Court in 1993 upheld the right of 44 children to sue for the cancellation of timber license agreements as part of their right to a healthy environment. And in 2008, the Supreme Court issued a mandamus, ordering 13 government agencies led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to carry out their obligations as mandated by the Philippine Environment Code to clean up the waters of Manila Bay.
The French courts’ orders in the cases of Maurice the rooster and the quacking ducks are the latest development in the worldwide battle between the natural order of things and the efforts of people to curtail it to fit their own human needs. The battle continues to this day and we are firmly on the side of those seeking to hold back human efforts that are now causing climate change and its worst effects on our lives. .