Tuesday 30 August 2011

Earth Law

Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) or Earth law recognises the Earth as the primary source of law which sets human law in a context which is wider than humanity.  This is to say that human law is secondary to Earth law.  Earth Jurisprudence acknowledges that the good of the whole takes precedence over the good of the parts. 

 Thus the way we govern ourselves needs to embody an ethical code of practice which requires us to live according to Nature’s laws for the well-being of the whole Earth Community and future generations of all species.

Earth Jurisprudence is the term first used by cultural historian Thomas Berry to name this  philosophy of governance and law which understands that the Earth, not human interests, are primary.  It accepts that humans are born into an ordered and lawful Universe, to whose laws we need to comply if we are to be a benign presence on Earth.

The many interrelated crises, which we are living through now – from mass species extinction to climate change and social and economic inequity – are a result of a radical break in human principles of governance over the last few centuries, where law has been used to legitimise social and ecological destruction. 

Short-term human interests  fuelled by an  insatiable drive to accumulate money and power,  have been enshrined in law in total disregard for  the well-being of the larger Earth Community. This is reflected by the fact that in 1886 corporations were granted the same rights as individuals without proportional responsibilities. However other species have not been given the rights of an individual human.

Earth Jurisprudence provides the foundation for restoring a mutually enhancing relationship between humanity and Nature. It calls on humans to fulfill their responsibilities to the wider Earth Community - to maintain the health of the Earth as a whole and all the different species living on Earth. 

As Thomas Berry pointed out, Nature herself and indigenous peoples, who live according to their  traditional  systems of ecological governance, are sources of inspiration. Earth Jurisprudence gives a name to the philosophy which is embodied in indigenous customs and norms around the world.

This includes the ancestral traditions of Europe such as the Greeks and the Celts. However, the challenge we face now is how we deal with the globally dominant industrial belief in endless economic growth and its lethal consequences for the social and ecological integrity of the Earth.

Within this context, Thomas Berry drafted '
Ten Principles of Jurisprudence', expressed in terms of rights, which he believed should be recognised in national constitutions and courts of law. 

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