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How We Can Change Our Laws to Protect the Rights of Nature

On April 20, South African environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan took part in a dialogue at the United Nations alongside Vandana Shiva, Riane Eisler, Peter Brown, and Bolivian UN Ambassador Pablo Solón as part of the preparatory process for the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Cullinan, who led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth at the request of the Bolivian government last year, is the author of Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice, 2nd edition, which calls for an Earth-centric, rather than anthropocentric, approach to jurisprudence. Cullinan recently spoke with Chelsea Green’s Brianne Goodspeed about his work and the recently released second edition of Wild Law.

Brianne Goodspeed: You write that your experience studying law in South Africa during apartheid meant that, right from the start of your legal career, you realized that the relationship between law and justice can be tenuous. How has that influenced your thinking about the relationship between law and the natural world? Cormac Cullinan: It was clear that laws were one of the main instruments of oppression used by the minority white government, so as a law student in apartheid South Africa, I quickly realized that there’s not necessarily a connection between law and morality or between law and justice. Since I’m a white male, I wasn’t at the receiving end of this legislation until I became in active in anti-apartheid politics as a student and fully understood that so much of what I’d been taught by the society in which I grew up — and the values it espoused — was false and deeply harmful to humanity. Being born a white South African at that time meant you were born into the class of the oppressors. By doing nothing, you became an accomplice to a crime against humanity. Young white South Africans who became involved in the struggle for democracy had to consciously re-educate ourselves. This left me with the understanding of how important it is to critically evaluate the values of society and how oppressive systems can be established and reinforced by laws which are portrayed as neutral. That experience made it easier for me to see how law is also used to legitimize and perpetuate the exploitation of nature. BG: Wild Law is an argument for “Earth Jurisprudence.” What does that mean? CC: Earth jurisprudence is simply an approach to law and governance that takes the natural order of the cosmos into account and focuses on ensuring the health and integrity of the whole system, rather than being exclusively focused on human interests. It proposes that if we are to govern ourselves in a manner that enables us to participate fully in the Earth community, we need to align our governance systems with natural systems by ensuring, for example, that we keep pollution levels well within the ability of natural systems to absorb and neutralize pollutants. What I refer to as “wild laws” are laws that reflect this approach. Continue reading this interview at Alternet.org Wild Law by Cormac Cullinan is available now.


The Future Is Hopeless, So Give it Your All

The never-ending national election in the United States, the “surprise” pro-Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, climate change … the list goes on and on about how easy it can be to lose hope in the future.Like many of life’s frustrations, or overwhelmingly large topics, most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the […] Read More

How Carbon Farming Can Save the Planet

Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, but coupled with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, it offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope.Along the way carbon farming can also […] Read More

Welcome to the Lyme Wars

Lyme disease infects a minimum of 300,000 people per year in the United States and millions more throughout the rest of the world. Symptoms run from mild lethargy to severe arthritis to heart disease to incapacitating mental dysfunction. Although tests have improved over the past decade, they are still not completely reliable, and antibiotics are […] Read More

Look Under Your Feet for Global Soil-utions

For several years, Chelsea Green has been publishing books that look under our feet for solutions to some of the most vexing problems facing the planet – hunger, drought, degraded farmland and grasslands, damaged waterways, and much more. Those books focus on (mostly) one thing: Soil.  In 2016, we’ve published two more important books that […] Read More

Feed Bees Biodynamically with Bee Tea

In this excerpt from An Unlikely Vineyard, Deirdre Heekin offers tips on how to biodynamically care for bees – just as they do everything else on the farm. Here, she provides a recipe for “bee tea” which is useful when feeding bees between winter and spring, when a hive has been robbed, or when starting […] Read More
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