Posthuman International Law and the Rights of Nature

Emily Jones writes a fascinating exposition of the postman as applied to international environmental law and the rights of nature. In her article, forthcoming from the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, she outlines the ways in which posthuman theory can aid international environmental law in protecting natural environments. By challenging anthropocentrism with the post-anthropocentrist turn, the posthuman can provide context to a rights of nature approach to environmental law. While the rights of nature approach has gained traction in recent years, it has mostly found success in national and local laws and regulations.

By applying rights to nature, law can empower nature to be protected. Importantly in Jones’ paper is the assignment of protectorates and representatives. In order for nature to exercise its right, it must be represented by humans in the court of law. Many countries with large amounts of natural resources, including New Zealand have appointed representatives for their forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains. These representatives defend those lands’ interests in human courts, and litigate, when necessary, to enforce international environmental law when and where it applies.

An additional clause which has gained ground recently is an anthropocentric ‘right to a healthy environment.’ Jones describes the right to a healthy environment as such:

The right to a healthy environment includes many elements, including ‘the right to breathe clean air, [and to have] access to clean water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainable food, a safe climate, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems’.

In some contexts, legally, nature can be recognized as being an individual, a person, with rights and obligations just like a living human being. This is groundbreaking, and has massive implications for the future of international environmental law.

Overall Jones’ paper is a breathtaking view of the reforms going on under the auspices of there United Nations, as well as environmental law tribunals around the world. Jones stresses the need to internationalize the rights of nature approaches, and build on the local and national successes that they have thus far achieved.

Jones, Emily. 2021. “Posthuman International Law and the Rights of Nature.” Journal of Human Right and the Environment. Vol. 12. No. 0.

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