Marlene Payva

In today’s rapidly changing world, marked by climate and ecological crises, it is crucial to interrogate, as human species, our most basic notions of nature underpinning our relationship with the natural world reflected in our laws. Recognising how such notions rooted in our laws have traditionally guided our relationship with non-human nature and shaped our assumptions of our role vis-à-vis nature can help to understand the inability of the mainstream (Western) legal system to meaningfully contribute to tackle the climate and ecological crises. In doing so, it is important to acknowledge the historical context amply framed within colonialism, in which the prevalent legal system has been erected and matured in a way to reflect an anthropocentric approach of nature. An anthropocentric legal approach entails a “prevailing ethic, upon which the law is based, [which] is human-based (or anthropocentric), and … has directly contributed to the environmental crisis” (Taylor, 1998: 4). While the anthropocentric legal system is not the only factor contributing to the interlinked climate and ecological crises, law has a central role in shaping collective notions of nature and defining the boundaries of human behaviour towards the non-human natural world. As Grear points out (2015: 225), “[law] is often accused of being resolutely ‘anthropocentric’, of rotating, as it were, around an anthropos (human/man) for whom all other life systems exist as objects.”

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