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Louis J Kotzé

Despite important victories, human rights have been unable to respond effectively to the many deeply intertwined socio-ecological injustices in the Anthropocene. In particular, human rights have failed to practically address, in a meaningful way, the plights of billions of oppressed human beings (and failed to address the vulnerability of non-human beings), while conceptually human rights are proving to be ill-suited for the epistemic demands of the Anthropocene. As a trope, the Anthropocene presents an opportunity to re-interrogate the role of human rights as key mechanisms in the state's regulatory mix to address socio-ecological injustices arising within the context of a vulnerable Earth system. This article reflects upon whether a re-interrogation could be accomplished by utilizing vulnerability theory, which is an alternative approach to ethical evaluation. As a heuristic, vulnerability has the potential to inform an ontological change of stance away from a human-centred, neoliberal, and impregnably Western understanding of human rights, towards an altogether more porous and contingent understanding of the vulnerability of the entire living order as a starting point from which to critique the epistemological closures and regulatory challenges confronting the human rights paradigm in the Anthropocene.

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Alf Hornborg

This article sketches a transdisciplinary theoretical framework for understanding the so-called Anthropocene in terms of global inequalities. The concept of the Anthropocene has several profound implications that challenge central aspects of the modern worldview. Its relation to issues of global justice requires a cataclysmic reconceptualization of conventional notions of development, economic growth, and technological progress. The article refers to the asymmetric global flows of resources that were a prerequisite to the British Industrial Revolution to illustrate how technological systems and so-called energy transitions are not just politically innocent revelations of nature, but thoroughly societal strategies of appropriation. Contemporary observations regarding environmental justice, climate justice, and energy justice can be theorized in terms of the modern inclination to think of the economy as detached from nature, and of technology as detached from world society.

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Edited by Louis J. Kotzé

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Rosemary Lyster

Climate change requires global leaders to take domestic action to drastically reduce emissions and to engage urgently in adaptation and in disaster risk reduction, while developed countries need to fund developing countries to support their efforts. It also requires facing the prospect that the loss and damage resulting from climate disasters will not be avoided through adaptation alone, that there will be extensive uncompensated losses, and that millions of climate displaced people may be on the move. The Paris Agreement is the international community's attempt to deal with these challenges. Yet, this article claims that the Agreement, which sets the parameters for the way forward, is a largely neoliberal document that undermines the corrective and distributive ideals of climate justice. Relying on the capabilities approach and a modified version of Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice, this article teases out the ‘clash of civilizations’ between neoliberalism and climate justice. It sets out the concerns about neoliberalism in the climate change space and proceeds to interrogate the claim that the Paris Agreement is a neoliberal document. Essentially, climate justice demands state-based responses, developed through democratic deliberation and participation, to ensure the survival, functioning and flourishing of humans and non-humans. Neoliberalism, meanwhile, posits that government is too large and complex and that regulatory activities unnecessarily disrupt the efficient operation of the market economy. Furthermore, libertarian ideas of justice undermine climate justice principles as the valorization of market mechanisms, private property rights and private sector actors remove the issues from political contention and democratic participation. Ultimately, I question whether any justice-based normative meta-consensus or discursive meta-consensus, such as the Talanoa Dialogue, might be found in the Paris Agreement to disrupt the international neoliberal agenda.

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Mary Warnock

This article reflects upon the concept of ‘loyalty’ to the planet and whether, in the final analysis, such ‘loyalty’ is really a matter of justice at all. Beginning with a meditation upon injustice, and on the notion of rights, this article traces the developments in philosophy that have increasingly enabled a sense of being-in-the-world and renewed appreciation of the lived connections between self and nature. Moving from the radical interiority of Descartes to the public nature of language, this article suggests that in the final analysis, ‘loyalty to the planet’ is more a matter of love than of justice.

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Maria Bargh and Estair Van Wagner

Land and natural resources are at the core of conflicts between Indigenous peoples and Settlers in settler-colonial nations. This article explores the coloniality of natural resource law in the context of the New Zealand Crown Minerals Act 1991 (CMA) Block Offer process; the annual tender process for mineral prospecting and exploration. While there is often strong Māori participation, we will argue that Aotearoa New Zealand settler-colonial mining law is structured in such a way that Māori views rarely influence the substantive outcomes of mineral exploration decisions. Through a case study of the 2013 Epithermal Gold Block Offer in the Central North Island, we will explore the factors that might contribute to the mismatch between the level of Māori participation and the influence of Māori views on final decisions in the Block Offer process. We examine how different views are valued by bureaucrats within New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, a government agency within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and explore whether the criteria applied to Māori submissions genuinely and appropriately reflect the full range of interests, aspirations and concerns raised by Māori participants. In particular, we consider how mining regulation is structured to exclude Māori law and jurisdiction in order to uphold settler-colonial authority over key natural resources and extractivist economies. Finally, we consider alternatives to the CMA process and explore the potential to ensure substantive outcomes that better reflect the Māori views and interests. In doing so we point to the need to shift from colonial extractivist models of natural resources law towards Settler-Indigenous partnerships in relation to environmental planning in settler-colonial states.

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Elena Blanco and Anna Grear

Set against the colonial and neo-colonial unevenness of the globalized neoliberal order, this article offers a critical reading of legal personhood and jurisdiction as mechanisms of privilege and predation. Transnational corporations (TNCs) are, we suggest, the ultimate insider construct for the neoliberal capitalist-techno order. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of corporeal human beings on the move as the marginalized products of that same order (especially refugees and migrants) are confronted by boundaries and barriers all too material in their effect.

In an age of anxiety-driven border hardening against mass human migration and of seamless, instantaneous movements of transnational capital and corporate location across jurisdictional boundaries, we examine the patterns of injustice implicated in and between these phenomena, tracing a Eurocentric logic visible in the complex continuities between coloniality, capitalism and the production of precarity in the Anthropocene.

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Fan Yang, Ting Zhang and Hao Zhang

Developing countries and countries with economies in transition have varying experiences in enforcing their national environmental law. China's judicial interpretations and legislation on environmental protection have established the rules that shift the burden of proof for causation in environmental tort litigation. However, this study of 513 court decisions from the people's courts at different levels in China shows that although the court decisions usually refer to or quote the rules that shift the burden of proof, in most cases the victim-plaintiffs still bear the liability to prove whether the causal relationship exists between the pollution and the harm. This study also finds that Chinese courts defer greatly to the evaluation report in proving causation. It suggests that the court practice of adjudicating environmental tort cases in China values more the factual causation of a pollution incident than the provisions regarding proof of causation stipulated by relevant laws. Consequently, such judicial practices hinder the effectiveness of judicial remedies for pollution victims in China.