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New Transitions from Human Rights to the Environment to the Rights of Nature

  • Susana Borràs (a1)

The weaknesses of our environmental laws stem in large part from the fact that legal systems treat the natural world as property that can be exploited and degraded, rather than as an integral ecological partner with its own rights to exist and thrive. This article analyzes the recent rise of a new generation of environmental laws which reject the ‘false dogma’ of ‘humans over nature’ and instead recognize our interconnectedness with the natural world and acknowledge its rights to exist, persist, and maintain its vital cycles. The article focuses on the transition from an anthropocentric approach, denoted by the ‘right to the environment’, to a biocentric approach constructed around ‘rights of nature’. This transition is evident in various new legal instruments – the Ecuadorian Constitution, certain Bolivian laws, and numerous ordinances of the United States – which incorporate and respect rights of nature, and grant legal rights to the natural world and enforcement rights to affected communities. These instruments serve as models for legal systems which can steer us towards more robust and effective environmental laws.

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This article was prepared in the framework of the project DER2013-44009-P, entitled ‘Del desarrollo sostenible a la justicia ambiental: hacia una matriz conceptual para la gobernanza global’ (2014–16), the main researcher for which is Antoni Pigrau Solé. The project is financed by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad Español.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M. Martens , ‘Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment in Belgium’ (2007) 16(3) Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, pp. 287297

J. Martínez Alier et al., ‘Social Metabolism, Ecological Distribution Conflicts, and Valuation Languages’ (2010) 70(2) Ecological Economics, pp. 153158

P. Higgins , D. Short & N. South , ‘Protecting the Planet: A Proposal for a Law of Ecocide’ (2013) 59(3) Crime, Law and Social Change, pp. 251266

E. Gudynas , ‘Buen Vivir: Today’s Tomorrow’ (2011) 54(4) Development, pp. 441447

E. Daly , ‘Ecuadorian Exemplar: The First Ever Vindications of Constitutional Rights’ (2012) 21(1) Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, pp. 6366

J. Rockström et al., ‘A Safe Operating Space for Humanity’ (2009) 461 Nature, pp. 472475

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Transnational Environmental Law
  • ISSN: 2047-1025
  • EISSN: 2047-1033
  • URL: /core/journals/transnational-environmental-law
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