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Edited by Anna Grear
Yaffa Epstein and Hendrik Schoukens
A growing number of jurisdictions throughout the world have recognized some type of legal rights of nature. This jurisprudential trend has thus far made few inroads in Europe. However, its apparent absence is misleading. In this article we argue that, explicit or not, nature as protected by European Union (EU) law already has certain legal rights in the Hohfeldian sense because other entities have legal obligations towards it. Moreover, we argue that recent decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU can be interpreted to support our claim that nature, as protected by EU law, already enjoys some legal rights that cannot be trumped by mere utilitarian interests, and that these rights can in turn be recognized and applied by national courts. We further suggest that public interest litigation can contribute to developing rights for nature in Europe, even absent any explicit recognition of these rights in EU law or in national legislation.
Rosemary J Coombe and David J Jefferson
In a decolonial determination to resist the modern ontological separation of nature from culture, political ontologies and posthuman legalities in Andean Community countries increasingly recognize natural and cultural forces as inextricably interrelated under the principle of the pluriverse. After years of Indigenous struggles, new social movement mobilizations and citizen activism, twenty-first-century constitutional changes in the region have affirmed the plurinational and intercultural natures of the region’s polities. Drawing upon extensive interdisciplinary ethnographic research in Ecuador and Colombia, the article illustrates how Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino communities express multispecies relations of care and conviviality in opposition to modern extractivist development through the concept of buen vivir. These grassroots collective life projects and life plans articulate rights ‘from below’ to support new practices of territorialization that further materialize natures’ rights and community ideals. Although human rights have modern origins, the implementation of third generation collective biocultural rights to fulfill natures’ rights may help to materially realize community norms, autonomies and responsibilities that exceed modern ontologies. The ecocentric territorial rights struggles and posthuman legalities we explore are examples of a larger emergent project of decolonizing human rights in a politics appropriate to the Anthropocene.
Manuela Niehaus and Kirsten Davies
In September 2019, over four million people, in an estimated 185 countries worldwide, marched for better climate policies and their enforcement in a global climate strike. This is an example of the global community, particularly young people, rising up and demanding climate action to protect their threatened future. The world community has experienced ‘rights-based’ community uprisings in the past, for example, anti-nuclear protests and movements for women’s rights. These uprisings have often led to changes in values, attitudes and behaviour, changes that have underpinned new laws, policies and practices. This article discusses how social movements and climate litigation activisms can influence and foster stronger climate policies and considers where current community climate uprisings will lead, in the context of climate and human rights law. The article explores whether these uprisings can embrace the ‘voiceless’ – future generations and nature – by giving them a meaningful voice in the service of urgently required climate action and legal protection of the planetary future.