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What if nature had rights?


Sharlene King
12 September 2011
Do you believe that granting rights and legal standing to nature could be a viable solution to current environmental problems?

This provocative idea – which is at the heart of an emerging branch of law known as Earth Jurisprudence - is the focus of a public forum organised by the newly formed Earth Laws Network at Southern Cross University’s School of Law and Justice at 6pm on Tuesday, September 20 at the Lismore campus in Room U2.31.

“Earth Jurisprudence is to law as what theoretical physics is to science,” said Associate Lecturer Alessandro (Alex) Pelizzon who is organising the forum.

“It's the frontier of the discipline, stretching and pulling the boundaries of law. Nature has long been considered an object of rights, with humans and their legal constructs being the subjects of those rights,” Mr Pelizzon said.

“Earth Jurisprudence sees nature not as a passive recipient of human activities but rather argues for recognition of legal subjectivity for nature itself.

“This shift in consciousness is seen as necessary to avoid approaches to the environment which regard nature as a ‘resource’ to be exploited for human gratification but ultimately contribute to a decline in the health and integrity of the ecosystems upon which the entire community of life depends.”

Leading the forum discussion are three guest speakers at the forefront of Earth Jurisprudence: Cormac Cullinan, author of the bestseller Wild Law; Professor Judith Koons from the Center for Earth Jurisprudence in Florida; and Linda Sheehan, director of the Earth Law Center in California.

Mr Pelizzon said the University’s School of Law and Justice formed the Earth Laws Network to stimulate practical legal innovations and generate interdisciplinary and collaborative research with other academics, legal practitioners, students and collaborators both within and outside Southern Cross University.

“We want to prepare and motivate scholars, lawyers, policymakers and others to think about innovative solutions to global and local ecological challenges and to act upon them," he said.
Photo: Associate Lecturer Alessandro Pelizzon is organising the Earth Law public forum at Southern Cross University. Event details: The Earth Law forum is 6pm to 7.30pm on Tuesday, September 20, in the lecture theatre U2.31 at SCU’s Lismore campus. The event is free and open to the public.