Category Archives: Anthropocentrism

Climate Change in the Anthropocene

GNHRE Europe held a workshop on Climate Justice in the Anthropocene on 2-3 May 2019 at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, Spain. The workshop was conceived, initiated and coordinated by Sam Adelman and Luis Kotze, and attended by several GNHRE members.

Over two days, participants from all over the world engaged in in-depth debate over the contours of climate justice in the Anthropocene, the limits of current approaches and possible ways forward, especially in light of the IPCC report Global Warming of 1.5oC.

The discussion touched on the criteria for climate justice; who owes what to whom, in what form and why; the extent to which Holocene categories of justice – distributive, environmental, gender, global, reparative – are relevant in the Anthropocene; and how climate justice relates to vulnerability and resilience.

In a highly interactive setting, the workshop participants discussed fourteen draft papers on the theoretical underpinning of climate justice, earth system governance, and climate change litigation. Selected papers from the workshop will be published in the prestigious publication series of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law.

By Annalisa Savaresi

Feature image: Josh Gellers

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Competing Narratives and Complex Genealogies: The Ecosystem Approach in International Environmental Law

Author

Vito De Lucia

Keywords

Ecosystem Approach, international environmental law, anthropocentrism, ecocentrism

Abstract

The ecosystem approach, broadly understood as a legal and governance ‘strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources’ is being increasingly adopted within a wide variety of international environmental legal regimes. From freshwater to oceans, from biodiversity to fisheries, from Antarctica to climate adaptation, the approach provides a narrative, a policy approach and in some cases legally binding obligations for States to implement what has been called a ‘new paradigm’ of environmental management. Responding to hopes of arresting, and reversing, the increasingly negative trends of resource depletion and ecological degradation affecting most ecosystems in the world, the ecosystem approach promises to ‘protect the environment, maintain healthy ecosystems, preserve biological diversity, and achieve sustainable development’, all at once. This article problematises the ecosystem approach in order to highlight its complex genealogies, and its contested and slippery character, which makes it susceptible to discursive capture by competing narratives.

Citation

(2015) 27/1 Journal of of Environmental Law, 91-117

Paper

Competing Narratives and Complex Genealogies: The Ecosystem Approach in International Environmental Law

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The Human Rights System as a Conceptual Framework for Environmental Law (R. S. Pathak)

Author(s)

R.S. Pathak

Keywords

Environmental Rights, Natural Order, Future Generations, Common Concern of Mankind, Indigenous People, Anthropocentrism, Environmental Philosophy, Refugees, International Law, Enforcement Procedures

Excerpt

The fundamental significance of environmental protection in shaping the quality of life of a people was reflected, from the commencement of the second half of this century, in the enacted constitutional law of a large number of countries, which include both developed and developing nations. There is a growing volume of environmental legislation and an increasing number of environmental protection agencies.
And as the gap closes between the developed and the developing countries in regard to the significance of the environmental philosophy, an enlarging consensus has become possible in the adoption of global policies and programmes providing for environmental protection.
Environmental law is concerned with our natural heritage and our cultural heritage. The natural heritage includes the atmosphere, the oceans, plant and animal life, water, soils, and other natural resources, both renewable and exhaustible. Our cultural heritage includes the intellectual, artistic, social, and historical record of mankind. Natural heritage is linked with cultural heritage, the survival, protection, and progress of both being interdependent. Man is the bridge between the two. Cultural heritage is the product and record of human perceptions of the natural order through visual, ethical, or mystical perspectives. It issues from man’s vision of his natural heritage. In turn, the protection and preservation of man’s natural heritage depends on human attitudes emanating from cultural, ethical, and religious beliefs.

Citation

(1992) in Environmental Change and International Law: New Challenges and Dimensions, Edith Brown Weiss ed., Chapter 8 (United Nations University Press: Tokyo)

Paper

The Human Rights System as a Conceptual Framework for Environmental Law

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Giving Nature Constitutional Protection: A Less Anthropocentric Interpretation of Environmental Rights (J. J. Bruckerhoff)

Author(s)

Joshua J. Bruckerhoff

Keywords

nature, anthropocentricism, constitutional rights, environmental rights, environmental health, environmental protection, biodiversity, jurisprudence

Abstract

Is it possible to use constitutional rights to protect the intrinsic value of nature? This question should seem somewhat paradoxical. Constitutional rights are, by their very nature, anthropocentric-they confer a right to people and to people only.1 This Note argues, nonetheless, that it is possible to use constitutional environmental rights to defend nature from environmental harm. Many countries (and some U.S. states) purport to grant their citizens a constitutional “right” to a healthy environment.2 These constitutional environmental rights remain largely untested in the courts;3 however, when they have been invoked, most courts have construed the right very narrowly. The courts hold that the right to a healthy environment only restricts state action that is likely to cause environmental harm that creates a signiflcant threat to human health, such as pollution.4

This current understanding and enforcement of environmental rights is flawed because it is too anthropocentric.  A right to a healthy environment should actually guarantee a healthy environment, not just an environment that satisfies minimal health standards for humans. This Note argues why environmental rights should protect nature’s biodiversity and how this goal can be accomplished within a workable constitutional-rights framework.

Scientists warn that human activities are threatening the survival of the world’s plant and animal life.5 Moreover, mounting evidence illustrates the importance of protecting nature’s biological diversity, or biodiversity.6 This evidence shows that biodiversity is critical to both overall environmental health and human well-being. Incorporating biodiversity protection into constitutional environmental rights will ensure that the rights will actually guarantee a truly healthy environment for present and future generations.7

There are two principal avenues for incorporating biodiversity considerations into environmental rights jurisprudence. First, the constitutional provision should link the concept of environmental rights with a broader definition of environmental health. Some current constitutions already accomplish this goal by not just guaranteeing a “livable” or “healthy” environment but by granting “a right to an ecologically balanced environment”8 or, stated more profoundly, a right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”9 second, and more importantly, courts should interpret and apply environmental rights more broadly. Because courts are unlikely to expand environmental rights on their own initiative, advocates of environmental rights should (1) highlight the scientific evidence that illustrates the interrelationship between biodiversity and human health and (2) emphasize the nexus between cultural values-specifically the rights of indigenous peoples-and overall environmental health.10 Ultimately, this Note aims to establish a workable constitutional framework for how citizens could rely on environmental rights to protect biodiversity.

This Note is divided into five parts. Part I emphasizes the importance of biodiversity law in environmental protection and explains the differences between anthropocentrism and biocentrism. Part II explains why a constitutional environmental right should be part of a comprehensive environmentalprotection regime. It also presents an argument for why environmental rights should be less anthropocentric. Subsequently, Parts III and IV discuss the two principal avenues for incorporating biodiversity considerations within environmental rights jurispmdence. Part III discusses how the constitutional text itself affects both the enforceability and application of environmental rights. It explains why most environmental rights provisions have not been enforced and notes that even when courts have enforced the right, they have limited its reach. Therefore, it outlines how an effective environmental right should be written to guarantee that it provides biodiversity protection while remaining individually enforceable. …

Citation

(2008) 86 Texas Law Review 615

Paper

Note, Giving Nature Constitutional Protection: A Less
Anthropocentric Interpretation of Environmental Rights

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The Right to a Healthy Life or the Right to Die Polluted?: The Emergence of a Human Rights to a Healthy Environment under International Law (S. Atapattu)

Author(s)

Sumudu Atapattu

Keywords

human right to a healthy environment, environmental protection, pollution, jurisprudence

Abstract

In an era that has witnessed much environmental destruction, as well as many strides taken to protect the environment, whether a new fundamental right to a clean environment should be recognized has become a hotly debated issue. Second perhaps only to the debate on sustainable development, the debate on the right to a healthy environment has attracted much jurisprudential debate with sharply divided views. 

It must be stressed at the outset that this discussion of a possible human right to a healthy environment should not be viewed as advocating an anthropocentric approach to environmental protection. Environmental issues encompass a much wider range of actors, affecting a much larger category of species than human rights violations. 

Citation

(2002) 16 Tulane Environmental Law Journal 65

Paper

The Right to a Healthy Life or the Right to Die Polluted?: The
Emergence of a Human Right to a Healthy Environment under International Law

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