Edited by Satvinder Singh Juss
Robotics technologies are being used for environmental research, and engineers and ecologists are exploring ways of integrating an array of new robots into ecosystems as a means of responding to mounting environmental problems. These efforts introduce new roles that robots may play in our environments, potentially crucial new forms of human dependence on such robots, and new ways that robots can promote and enhance well-being. Such approaches at once bring up questions about when the use of robots for repairing or mitigating ecological problems is ethically permissible and when it is not. This article builds on recent work on the ethics of such ‘environmental robots’, and advances a virtue-centred framework for guiding the development and use of robots for environmental engineering and for addressing ecological justice issues.
Rosemary Mutheu Mwanza
Corporate environmental damage in Kenya manifests as a complex mix of humanitarian and ecological harms superimposed over serious environmental governance challenges. The existing legal framework is neither a sufficient deterrent to prevent the occurrence of harm, nor does it offer optimal remedies whenever harm occurs. The limitations inherent in law are primarily because laws are designed to reflect an economic rationality that prioritizes economic growth and profit maximization above all else. Even in cases where a causal relationship between such a rationality and the design of law cannot be ascertained, the limitations of law ultimately inure to the benefit of corporate perpetrators of harm. As a result, the law facilitates the externalization of the costs of environmental damage to the advantage of corporate perpetrators. The constitutional human right to a clean and healthy environment stands as law's response to this problem. Drawing on insights from critical theories of human rights, this article argues that the right can be an effective instrument against corporate environmental damage if it is construed in a manner that prioritizes maximum protection of the well-being of humans and ecosystems. Constructing the right in this way assumes that the new norm is itself a reflection of a new rationality, constituted by a set of values different from those that have played a predominant role in shaping legal and institutional responses to environmental damage so far. These values should guide courts, administrators and legislators in the exercise of their respective environmental protection duties.
We are now accustomed to thinking of the Holocene as an epoch that we have left behind. But from what perspective do we close the Holocene and begin describing the Anthropocene? Academic disciplines have their own geology: epistemic or medial strata, sediments or condensations, which condition the apprehension and communication of fresh insight. The phrase ‘Holocene jurisprudence’ draws attention to a particular epistemic sediment: the figure of appropriation or ‘taking’, which is reactivated in many critical commentaries on the Anthropocene. And if, speaking figuratively, one were to identify an index fossil that compellingly expresses the epistemic traditions and potentialities that are sedimented into the Euro-American figure of appropriation, then Carl Schmitt's Nomos of the Earth would be a good candidate.
Dina Lupin Townsend
The Inter-American Court and Commission of Human Rights, following the approach in key international human rights texts, have emphasized the importance of procedural rights in the protection of indigenous rights to territory and to cultural identity. In particular, the Court and Commission have focused on rights to consultation in a range of cases in which indigenous peoples have challenged mining, logging and other extractive activities on their territories.
Consultation processes are often expected to serve a wide range of purposes in the protection of indigenous rights and interests in territory. Consultation is a means of informing a community about a project, but also a process through which an agreement can be reached between the community and the State about the use of territory or the sharing of benefits. In this article, I focus on consultation's role as part of the impact assessment process.
In determining the impact that a project might have on indigenous territory, the Court and Commission have found that the State must assess both the environmental and cultural impacts of a plan or activity. Consultation is a necessary part of the identification of the impacts of an activity and ensuring that the State has all the necessary information prior to making decisions to grant concessions over indigenous territory.
However, the Court and Commission's interpretation of indigenous testimony in consultation processes could undermine the role of such testimony in the assessment of environmental impacts, and might silence indigenous participants rather than ensure their meaningful participation. With reference to the idea of illocutionary silencing, taken from feminist speech act theory, I argue that the Court and Commission have interpreted indigenous testimony about the environment as being claims about the cultural impacts of disputed activities or plans, and not as claims about the environmental impacts. In other words, when indigenous community members have offered descriptions of their territories and surrounding environments, such testimony has been treated not as descriptions of the environment but as reports of cultural beliefs and practices. As a result, indigenous input in regard to the environmental impacts of a project or plan can be overlooked. In this article I argue that this failure to recognize indigenous accounts of the environment means that these communities are silenced through the consultation process and denied the opportunity to be informed about all relevant impacts.
The ‘problem’ of ‘the child soldier’ is a touchstone of our contemporary time. It names an impassioned concern with the exploitation and victimization of children in situations of armed conflict by more powerful state and non-state actors – a concern which is understood to reflect a global humanitarian sentiment that has emerged in response to the grave violence and injustice that occurs in the world. Influential international actors and institutions frame child soldiering as ‘one of the most deplorable developments in recent years’ and a ‘crime against humanity’, cautioning that ‘[e]mpathy alone with the suffering of boys and girls in times of conflict is not enough. We must act.’ The problem of child soldiering thus justifies a variety of humanitarian campaigns, international justice initiatives and political interventions designed to end the practice. In the name of preventing and redressing the scourge of child soldiering, individuals, communities and organizations come together to denounce this practice and respond to its effects. And at the heart of many of these collaborations and campaigns lies an image of the vulnerable (often African) child compelling protection and care. This is an image that can appear as transparent as it is problematic; an unquestionable depiction of injustice that seems to demand a certain reaction. This is the work of problematization. Problematization refers to the socially, legally, politically, culturally and historically located processes whereby a particular issue or concern emerges on the social and legal scene. It is the giving of form to something which previously did not exist as such, in particular ways. Problematization refers to ‘the totality of discursive or non-discursive practices that introduces something into the play of true and false and constitutes it as an object for thought (whether in the form of moral reflection, scientific knowledge, political analysis)’. Here then, problematization refers to the way in which the complex array of contexts and experiences that have been described so carefully in the preceding pages come to be understood as parts of a whole, as different perspectives on ‘the problem of the child soldier’. And it is from this understanding and articulation of a shared problem that potential solutions can then be crafted – solutions which are always delimited to the terms and truths upon which the initial problematization is based. An attention to problematization, therefore, separates an acknowledgement of the reality of children’s participation in conflict from the current, somewhat cohesive and consistent, way of understanding (and indeed pathologizing) this participation, its nature, causes and potential solutions.