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Groen Trainees brainstorm session on environmental personhood for the Maas river

The Instituut voor Natuureducatie – IVN (Institute for Nature Education) held the first brainstorming session with their Groen Trainees at the Viastory offices in Maastricht today. What was on the agenda? The 'Maas in de Wet' campaign to attain environmental personhood for the Maas river.

Environmental personhood is the legal concept which designates certain entities the status of a legal person. This can include parts of nature, such rivers, mountains and forests. Granting parts of nature legal rights means the law sees ‘nature’ as a legal person, creating rights which can be enforced. This then also enables ‘nature’ to go to court to protect its rights.

For years the IVN has been working hard for a cleaner Maas and chooses to involve young people in particular in order to reach their goals and spread the word as much as possible. The Groen Traineeship is a major national social project to give young people practical experience in the fields of environmentalism and sustainability. The trainees present today are working on the 'Maas in de Wet' campaign specifically.

Noï Boesten, IVN Project Leader:

"Today, together with the group of trainees, Viastory and a few other companies, we started to shape the extensive campaign to grant the Maas environmental personhood. The campaign aims to on the one hand make people aware of how important it is for the Maas river to have rights, and on the other hand to make people aware of problems such as how polluted our river is. We hope to go live in June."

Toos Hofstede is Strategist and Partner of B-Corp certified communications agency Viastory, co-founder of B2B campaign Maas CleanUp. She is enthusiastic about Viastory's involvement in this campaign and how the agency can contribute to the development of the Groen Trainees:

"It is our main task to communicate, to develop a strategic campaign, to mobilise people in a positive way, that is why it is important for Viastory to be involved. We want to help the trainees with our knowledge about campaigning and communication and help them on their way."

Groen Trainee Camille is concise about not only the goals of the campaign but also the reason for her involvement in it:

"This traineeship is very much focussed on making society more aware of what "green" means and how they can be connected to it. I think that is a very important cause. Specifically this traineeship focusses on the Maas and how it can be granted rights. I think in this way we want to get rid of this anthropocentric role perspective."

When asked about the choice to be involved in a traineeship, a non-paying role in a campaign her answer was clear:

"In the end it is not about money, it is about the mission. It is more important that we reach these goals and we see change than we are paid. We are still young and we have time to do these things next to our studies and internships. I think it is the time now to take action and use our time in a good way."

Also present at the brainstorming session was Jessica van Outer, self professed Earth-centered Law expert. It was Jessica who was instrumental in the start of the movement to grant the Maas environmental personhood. Her presence today was essential to ensuring the Groen Trainees were across the legal ramifications of such a campaign.

I've been involved in the Rights of Nature movement since 2017, I started doing research with the UN Harmony with Nature Network on various examples around the world on countries that have implemented the right of nature in their legislation. It was about a year ago I started thinking to myself 'this is something we need in the Netherlands as well'. I got in touch with Maas CleanUp and ever since we have been working together to see if this could be a solution to the problems we see in the Maas today.

The atmosphere at the brainstorm session was positive and even though IVN, Viastory and the Groen Trainees have a massive task ahead, they are hopeful for the results they feel they will be able to achieve.


"I think working with these trainees, who are young, and have a lot of energy – we are all very aware of the plastic problems, I feel very hopeful for the future, definitely."

Those present were also keen to emphasise that involvement in this campaign is open to all residents who are interested, there are many roles to be filled, with varying levels of commitment.


"Everyone is welcome to join our movement. We need people not only to pick up the litter but also develop content or campaign together with us in English, Dutch, it doesn't matter. We want to reach out to the whole community."


"To get involved you don't have to invest all your time, you can help spread the word, contribute your ideas, I think it is a very easy thing to do, so I would ask anybody to join us."

If you would like to get involved, head over to the Maas CleanUp website. The content is currently available in Dutch, however there will be more information in English soon.

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