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Responding to the Great Work: The Role of Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law in the 21st Century

By Dr. Michelle Maloney* and Sister Patricia Siemen**
ENVIRONMENTAL AND EARTH LAW JOURNAL, Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Vol. 5 (2015) > Iss. 1

I. Introduction

Despite a proliferation of environmental law in the United Statesand around the world, the health of the natural world continues todeteriorate. In this paper, we will build on the idea that what we need is not more environmental law, but different approaches to managing human relationships with the Earth. We will argue that the burgeoning Earth jurisprudence movement offers a deep philosophical anchor and a range of practical and multi-disciplinary approaches necessary to create law reform and societal change that will better support the natural world and human societies than our current system. We will also suggest that one of the greatest strengths of Earth jurisprudence is its ability to combine a rational critique of some of our oldest western, legal, and governance structures, with a less rational and more emotive call to return to a sacred appreciation of the Earth and the wider Earth Community.

In Section II, we will outline the origins and key elements of the Earth jurisprudence movement and will demonstrate the ways that Earth jurisprudence can be used to offer a cohesive framework within which law, politics, science, economics, ethics, traditional wisdom and human spirituality can be woven together to create a more effective governance approach to nurturing the Earth. In Section III, we will explore some of the ways groups inspired by Earth laws have implemented their work.

Next, we will provide an overview of the work being carried out by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, an international network of lawyers and Earth Advocates. Finally, we will focus on the work of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) and the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) as further examples of the innovative approaches being carried out by advocates for Earth jurisprudence.

*Dr. Michelle Maloney is National Convenor of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (www.earthlaws.org.au) and was a Visiting Scholar and Earth Laws Specialist at the Center for Earth Jurisprudence (www.EarthJuris.org) at the time of writing this paper. She can be contacted at: convenor@earthlaws.org.au

**Sister Pat Siemen OP, JD, is the Director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University School of Law (www.EarthJuris.org).

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Responding to the Great Work: The Role of Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law in the 21st Century

Abstract

In this lead article, the authors build on the idea that we do not need more environmental law in response to the deteriorating health of the natural world. Rather, they argue that what is needed are different approaches to managing human relationships with the earth. They argue that the burgeoning Earth jurisprudence movement offers a deep philosophical anchor and a range of practical and multi-disciplinary approaches necessary to create law reform and societal change that will better support the natural world and human societies than our current system. The authors will outline the origins and key elements of the Earth jurisprudence movement. In addition, they explore some of the ways groups inspired by Earth laws have implemented their work. Lastly, they will provide an overview of the work being carried out by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the Earth Advocates, the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, and the Australian Earth Laws Alliance.

Recommended Citation

Maloney, Dr. Michelle and Siemen, Sister Pat OP, JD (2015) “Responding to the Great Work: The Role of Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law in the 21st Century,” Environmental and Earth Law Journal (EELJ): Vol. 5: Iss.

Laudato Si’ – A story of right relationships

By Patricia Siemen Global Sisters Report, A project of National Catholic Report, July 7, 2015

Sr. Pat Siemen participates in the Earth Rights march in Durban, South Africa during the COPs 17 U.N. climate conference December 2011.

“It’s all a question of story,” wrote Thomas Berry. “We are in trouble now because we do not have a good story .. . . and the old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. We have not yet learned the new story.”

Pope Francis’s long-awaited encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si tells a story and issues a call to all people to act on behalf of our common home. It offers much more than a treatise on the environment and climate change; it sets a cosmological context of belonging to creation as relatives, as brothers and sisters (11). It calls for an ecological spirituality and conversion (216), and offers a moral framework for both individual and collective response to care for our common home.

As an Earth lawyer and Catholic sister striving to awaken people to the peril of Earth’s desecration and the promise of acting as a single community of life, I hear Francis’s story with gratitude and relief.

Francis weaves a story of integral ecology (137).

“. . . [W]e have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate the questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49).

He emphasizes the interrelationship between environmental destruction, anthropocentric domination of nature, disregard for people who are poor and vulnerable among us, extinction of species and the plunder of an unrestrained global economic system. Pollution and climate change, depletion of fresh water, biodiversity loss and disregard for human communities are the consequence “of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production” (32).

Francis connects the value of human life with the value of the Earth community which sustains all life. “It is not enough . . . to think of different species merely as potential ‘resources’ to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves” (33).

While sliding over the consequences of overpopulation (50), Francis boldly identifies the interrelated, causal dynamics that are destroying the fabric of our common home.

I was engaged, surprised, grateful and often in tears as I read Francis’s epic story. It was encouraging to discover how closely it aligns with the sacred story that guides me and the work of Earth jurisprudence that is rooted in kinship.

Read Sister Pat’s complete article …

Mother Earth Cries Out & We Must Listen and Act Boldly

–Reflecting on Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment

Blog by Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Co-Founder & Executive Director, June 22, 2015  WECAN International

Pope Francis’s new encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, is a powerful tool for the climate movement, and has created a critical space inviting other world leaders to step up and take bold action to address the root causes of the crisis we face. We must recognize however, that this is not just a tool for the movement, but also a tool of the movement, with statements echoing years of peoples organizing worldwide.

Pope Francis calls not just for climate action, but also for climate justice, recognizing that human poverty and vulnerability is intimately tied to environmental degradation. He espouses an integral ecology that embraces the deep interdependence of the Earth, human society, and the economy. The encyclical is also a call for a fundamental shift in our collective consciousness and understanding of the world and our place in it- requiring movement from a global society of destruction and consumption, to one of care and connection to our collective home, our Mother Earth.

“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted,” Pope Francis writes.

Critically, Francis explains that real change means bringing together three worldviews that have been divided for too long in modern societies: scientific knowledge, spirituality, and Indigenous understanding. He calls for the voices of the world’s Indigenous peoples to be at the center of all climate discussions and actions, recognizing that we have so much to learn from these cultures that have maintained their connection to the land. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network could not agree more, as we are advocating for action based on four Guiding Principles: Rights of Women, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rights of Nature and Rights of Future Generations.

Pope Francis does not waiver in his criticism of the corporate interests driving environmental degradation, nor the politicians facilitating their destruction. He calls for immediate action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, a bold transition to a clean energy future, and climate solutions free of inappropriate market mechanisms.

The encyclical opens the door further to addressing the urgency of global warming and touches on how this crisis is giving us the opportunity (or perhaps rather forcing us) to entirely redesign our economic systems and ways of living with the Earth and each other.

Read Osprey Orielle Lake’s complete article at Women Speak: Climate Justice and Solutions.