The Search for Environmental Justice
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The Search for Environmental Justice

Edited by Paul Martin, Sadeq Z. Bigdeli, Trevor Daya-Winterbottom, Willemien du Plessis and Amanda Kennedy

This is an extended and remarkable excursus into the evolving concept of environmental justice. This key book provides an overview of the major developments in the theory and practice of environmental justice and illustrates the direction of the evolution of rights of nature. The work exposes the diverse meanings and practical uses of the concept of environmental justice in different jurisdictions, and their implications for the law, society and the environment.
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Chapter 3: The rule of law in the Anthropocene

Klaus Bosselmann


The term Anthropocene marks a new geological epoch of significant human impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. Human activities have caused climate change, biodiversity loss, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, overuse in land and freshwater, chemical pollution and interference with nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Scientists believe that each of these ecosystems or processes has a certain ‘boundary’ (that is, threshold or tipping point) which, if crossed, may trigger non-linear changes in the functioning of the Earth system as a whole. Collectively, therefore, these ‘planetary boundaries’ define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system. Ensuring a safe operating space for humanity is the central challenge in the Anthropocene. A precondition for meeting the challenge is some coordinated effort based on global responsibility across nations and cultures. It is doubtful, however, that an effort of this nature currently exists. So far, national interests have only allowed for a set of lowest common denominators: general agreements on climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification or poverty and human rights. There is, at this point in time, no real global responsibility and no sense of urgency for lowering humanity’s overall impact on the Earth system. Yet, the Anthropocene requires nothing less. We must revise our ethics and our laws in order to adapt them to conditions that allow for a just, sustainable world within the limits of planetary boundaries. A fundamental rule of self-constraint is needed, a rule that respects the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystems.

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