It’s Saturday night and the natives are restless. They’re partying next door. It’s 1 a.m.. I can hear their music. My partner, who usually sleeps through the dog snoring and the fan whirring, hears their music. Makes me wonder what do they care for Wild Law? For the future? Maybe they do–they got three boys. Maybe I should go over and find out. After I get some sleep.
Like I said, the natives are restless. Usually we think of ‘aboriginals’ when we say ‘natives’, but in this case I have my tongue firmly in my cheek–I mean the noisy neighbours.
Blah blah blah. Enough about me, especially when Begonia Filgueira and Ian Mason have an essay about Earth Jurisprudence [ewl, 192-203]. Earth Jurisprudence, they write, incorporates both the more rational, Western approach and the experiential indigenous approach with the hope of forging ‘a new understanding of law, constitutionality and lawfulness’ [ewl, 194-195]. But how to incorporate Earth Jurisprudence into modern legal theory? That’s their concern here.
Back to Earth Jurisprudence. Sorry.
How to incorporate Earth Jurisprudence into modern legal theory? Lawyers ‘focus on legal instruments’, such as rights. ‘But Earth Jurisprudence argues that there is a deeper, more philosophical basis for granting these rights…: nature deserves to be valued for itself’, not for its human value. [In fact, ignoring nature could be fatal for both humans and the Earth, say the authors on page 195, though I think life is tenacious and surprising and even if we mess up and cause great ecological misery, and even if we extinguish ourselves, life in some form will continue–it just might not include humans.]
[Me again:] My partner, who was reading about Tunis and the electoral aftermath of its Arab Spring Uprising, and I, who was reading about Harper’s science blindness (it’s a great read!), had a long conversation about democracy and benign dictatorships while we listened to and smelled some Diesel motorhome idle. Closer to home, even if more people voted, even if the vote wasn’t split (Can you say two-party system? Sure you can.), right now, people would tend to hold an anthropocentric view, and this view would reflect in their vote.
Meanwhile, as Elizabeth May writes, our fearless leader fearlessly promotes this anthropocentric view by brooking no opposition: ‘While Stephen Harper has succeeded in dramatically reducing the Canadian media coverage of climate science through the muzzling of government scientists, the atmosphere does not seem to have gotten the memo. Around the world, the force and frequency of severe weather events has woken up even the mainstream US media. Fires, floods, tornadoes, heat waves are wreaking havoc on agriculture and running up the bills to the insurance industry. The culprit for much of this year’s strange weather phenomenon is the rapidly warming Arctic.’
Is the Arctic our neighbour? Granting rights to nature, Filgueira and Mason write, ‘is not an extension of what we understand to be human rights. The concept is more akin to the neighbour principle and the duty of care well known in common law systems. The question is who is the neighbour of the human race? Earth Jurisprudence argues that we are all interdependent and interconnected, that our neighbours include not only our human neighbours but everything that is around us’ [ewl, 195].
However, ‘modern jurisprudence is anthropocentric,… exemplified by concepts such as human rights, public benefit and private ownership…. Even environmental protection is frequently for’ humans, not nature [ewl, 196].
They conclude that there is no ‘coherent wild law approach’, that the Earth and its non-human members are only valued by humans as resources. ‘However, we did find positive elements of wild law’ and they ‘suggest that moving on to a deeper Earth Jurisprudence may not be impossible.’ Anthropocentricism is the biggest obstacle; however, there is growing awareness of the interdependence of all things. Still, they note that after Copenhagen in 2009, ‘for most governments development and trade are more important than harmony and survival’ [ewl, 200].
But there are signs things are changing. Filgueira and Mason recommend [ewl, 200-201] for the future (abbreviated):
- look at the Earth as a living being; stop using the word ‘resource’
- redefine public interest to include non-humans
- redefine sustainability, as ‘development’ is no longer sustainable
- promote the enjoyment of nature
- enshrine the right to protect and respect the environment as part of the right to life [That’s the legal right to live, not anti-abortion politics]
- support a binding Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature [The UN Earth Charter, while being a huge step forward, still uses anthropocentric language and seeks ‘development’ as a just solution and sees the Earth in terms of ‘resources’.]
- support national efforts of the same
- educate judges, lawyers, and environmental professionals [Judges and lawyers are easy but what are ‘environmental professionals’? What about volunteers, like me?]
- promote intuition