Wild Law - legal rights for nature Idea of legal rights for nature was mooted by Prof Christopher Stone in early 1970s – Should Trees have Standing? It is not inevitable, nor is it wise, that natural objects should have no rights to seek redress in their own behalf. It is no answer to say that streams and forests cannot speak. Corporations cannot speak either…
Wild law – legal rights for nature Throughout history, each extension of legal rights had previously been unthinkable: emancipation of slaves, extension of civil rights to black people in America, women, children… (Christopher Stone, Should Trees have Standing?)
The current legal system Environmental laws have developed in a piecemeal fashion Tension with other laws – eg. duties of directors under Companies Act 2006 Legal systems reflect belief system of society – not sacrosanct What are those beliefs? Economic growth, separation from nature?
The current legal system Precautionary principle, polluter pays are operational principles, not a compass of direction Sustainable development? Is our current legal system fit for purpose?
Thomas Berry on current law Our present legal system throughout the world is supporting the devastation of nature rather than protecting it. This is because the political powers and legal frameworks of Western nations support the industrial economy. (Thomas Berry, Rights of the Earth, published in Resurgence Sept/ Oct 2002)
More wild observations of current legal systems Anthropocentric - role of language – property, resources, stewardship Only humans and corporations have legal rights Not effective at stopping or even moderating environmental destruction Our legal systems do not encourage us to live and organise ourselves for the benefit of both human and non human beings (insight of Thomas Berry)
Wild law and Earth jurisprudence Wild laws are laws that are consistent with Earth jurisprudence Earth jurisprudence - Thomas Berry interdependence of life every living being has rights rights derive from existence promotes mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship
Earth jurisprudence We cannot have healthy human beings on a sick planet (Thomas Berry, Rights of the Earth) Every component of the Earth Community has three rights: The right to be The right to a habitat The right to fulfil its role in the ever renewing processes of the Earth Community (Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts)
Earth jurisprudence - rights In the non living world, rights are role specific In the living world, rights are species specific All rights are limited and relative Human rights do not cancel out other rights We have human rights… But we have no rights to deprive other species of their proper habitat… We have no rights to disturb the basic functioning of the biosystems of the planet. Thomas Berry, The Great Work
Wild law - a positive vision Consistent with EJ, wild laws regulate human behaviour to promote the health and integrity of the community of life on Earth in the long term
The case for wild law – Cormac Cullinan – Wild Law 1. Humans are an integral part of the Earth system 2. We are influenced by the Earth Community 3. The way we govern ourselves must of necessity be consistent with this context – the pursuit of human well being must not undermine the integrity of the Earth 4. Human fulfilment is not possible outside of a web of healthy relationships with the wider Earth Community
The case for wild law 5. We need to create a jurisprudence which reflects the fact that human societies are part of a wider Earth Community and then begin a transformation of our societies and legal systems 6. In order to re-orient our governance systems, we need to establish laws which are wild at heart in the sense that they foster creativity and human connection to nature 7. We need to cultivate personal/ social practices that respect nature to implement wild laws properly
Wild law The logical case is not the whole story, what we call governance needs soul – quality, depth of connection, emotional and intellectual substance Need to engage Heartmind (Cormac Cullinan) …teach your children that the rivers are our brothers and you much henceforth give them the kindness you would give any brother Chief Seattle, 1854
Wild law in practice 2008 – people of Ecuador approve a constitution giving legally enforceable rights to nature Article 1 – Nature… has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles… Every person… will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature… Case filed in Nov 2010 by Vandana Shiva and others against BP for crimes against nature (following the massive oil spill). Remedy sought – information, keep oil underground.
Laws with elements of wildness The Indian Constitution, Article 51A It shall be the duty of every citizen… to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures
Developments in wild law Proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth – adopted Apr 2010 in Bolivia at the World Peoples Conference we are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny (Preamble) Article 2 sets out inherent rights of Mother Earth
Developments in wild law Campaign by UK barrister Polly Higgins to get ecocide recognised as an international crime against peace http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHnBbEOjVc&featu re=player_embedded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHnBbEOjVc&featu re=player_embedded
Developments in wild law Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature established in September 2010 Wild Law UK officially founded in late 2010
Closing thought… There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come ( Victor Hugo) Why rights for nature? - Its time has come
Further reading Cormac Cullinan- Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice 2002 Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature: http://therightsofnature.org/?cat=3 Thomas Berry - The Great Work 1999, and Evening Thoughts 2006 Christopher Stone- Should Trees Have Standing?
Further reading Peter Burdon – Rights of Nature: Reconsidered 2010 Peter Burdon – Earth Rights – The Theory 2011 The scientific basis for wild laws: Stephan Harding – Animate Earth 2 nd Edition 2009 James Lovelock – The Revenge of Gaia