Posthuman International Law and the Rights of Nature

Photo by Grant Ritchie

On 11 November 2020, Dr. Emily Jones, Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, spoke in the Ghandi Research Seminar Series at the University of Reading Global Law at Reading (GLAR) group. The topic of Dr Jones’ talk was ‘Posthuman International Law and the Rights of Nature.’ 

The paper began by outlining what ‘the environment’ of international environmental law is, looking at both general public international environmental law regimes as well as developments within the field of human rights and the environment. Overall, the paper argued, by drawing on critical environmental law scholarship, that ‘the environment’ of environmental law largely remains anthropocentric in its conceptualisation, separating human, non-human and environmental interests into separate legal spheres and promoting human interests above all others. A more integrated approach to environmental law was highlighted as being necessary. 

The paper then moved on to consider the usefulness of applying a posthuman theoretical framework to re-imagine international environmental law. Noting the links between posthuman theory and emerging rights of nature approaches to legal environmental protections, the paper went on to argue for the need to situate posthuman theory at the centre of the rights of nature project, it being noted that this will prove especially key as global standards are developed and begin to emerge.

The paper drew on examples of where nature has been granted rights in various contexts, including in Ecuador, New Zealand and the US. The examples were used to analyse best practice and emerging standards. Seeking to re-think the law in the posthuman, the paper concluded by outlining the potentials in the rights of nature project as well as the limitations, highlighting the barriers faced with working within, albeit seeking to change, the liberal humanist frame that is international law.  

The paper given will make up part of a journal article on the same topic that Dr Jones is currently drafting. To listen to recording of this talk, please go to the GLAR website here

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