Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice (Second Edition)
by Cormac Cullinan, Foreword by Thomas Berry
AVAILABILITY: Readily available
Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Topics: Jurisprudence, Law-Philosophy, Wilderness Areas-Philosophy, Earth Sciences
Condition: Special Sale
Description: We are rapidly destroying our only habitat, Earth. It is becoming clear that many of the treaties, laws and policies concluded in recent years have failed to slow down, let alone halt or reverse, this process. Cormac Cullinan shows that the survival of the community of life on Earth (including humans) requires us to alter fundamentally our understanding of the nature and purpose of law and governance, rather than merely changing laws. In describing what this new 'Earth governance' and 'Earth jurisprudence' might look like, he also gives practical guidance on how to begin moving towards it.
Wild Law fuses politics, legal theory, quantum physics and ancient wisdom into a fascinating and eminently readable story. It is an inspiring and stimulating book for anyone who cares about Earth and is concerned about the direction in which the human species is moving.
Cormac Cullinan is an author, practicing environmental attorney, and governance expert who has worked on environmental governance issues in more than twenty countries. He is a director both of Cullinan and Associates, Inc., a specialist environmental and green-business law firm, and the governance consultancy EnAct International. At the invitation of Bolivia, Cullinan spoke at the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, which was proclaimed on April 22, 2010, by the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Environment in Bolivia. In September 2010, Cullinan played a leading role in establishing a Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and currently sits on the Executive Committee of the Alliance. Cullinan is also a research associate of the University of Cape Town, sits on the City of Cape Town’s climate-change think tank, and is a nonexecutive director of ICLEI Africa. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
The following is excerpted from the book. It appeared originally on the web at Truthout.org.
I was probably fortunate to have studied law in apartheid South Africa. It meant that right from the beginning I was very aware that states use law as a method of social control, that laws reflect a particular view of the world held by those with political power, and that there is not necessarily a healthy relationship between law, justice and morality. It also meant that I was never in awe of the “majesty of the law” or believed that having a complex yet rationally consistent set of rules was an end in itself. The fact that I was involved in organizing student marches and other anti-government activities that were illegal at the time, also gave me a healthy disrespect for many of the involved debates that some legal theorists immersed themselves in. Issues such as whether or not there is a moral obligation to obey the law simply because it is the law, or whether or not a morally repugnant law is law, seemed simple in those days. Whatever the niceties of the various academic points of view, when confronted with really repugnant laws that are nevertheless enforced with whips, imprisonment and worse, the doubts evaporate. I, and many others, found that at these times we took guidance from our consciences and hearts and not from logic or theory. Valuable though logic is in discerning truth, sometimes the heart or intuition is a better guide in the turbulence of experience.
The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. In my view, the deteriorating condition of Earth is the proof that the human self-governance pudding has gone bad. Our systems for regulating human behavior are not protecting Earth, our home, from destruction, because that it not their purpose. The problem of inadequate self-regulation cannot be solved at the level of legislative reform. The problem is not simply that our laws need refining to be more effective. The fact is that, by and large, these laws do give accurate expression to the defective worldview that underlies them. Our legal and political establishments perpetuate, protect and legitimize the continued degradation of Earth by design, not by accident.
In this chapter I will discuss some examples that I think illustrate this point, as well as referring briefly to some of the jurisprudence that lies behind the legal systems of the cultures that currently dominate world society.
There are few areas in which the arrogant and obsessively anthropocentric worldview of the dominant societies is more apparent than in the law. The law reserves all the rights and privileges to use and enjoy Earth to humans and their agents (and usually only selected categories of those, at that). It has also reduced other aspects of Earth and the other creatures that live on it to the status of objects for the use of humans. The grandiose constitutions of the mighty nations form the arching vaults of the homosphere, and describe it and its aspirations. The law prescribes how we relate to other humans, to other cohabitants of this planet and to Earth itself. It punishes and takes revenge on those who do not conform. It legitimizes the eternal extermination of species and the most profound disrespect and abuse of the Earth that sustains us.
If all this sounds like hyperbole, consider the following, which is true of the legal systems of almost all the cultures that currently dominate human society.
OTHER ASPECTS OF EARTH ARE DEFINED AS OBJECTS WITHOUT RIGHTS
Animals, plants and almost every other aspect of the planet are, legally speaking, objects that are either the property of a human or artificial “juristic person” such as a company, or could at any moment become owned, for example by being captured or killed. For as long as the law sees living creatures as “things” and not “beings,” it will be blind to the possibility that they might be the subjects (i.e. the holders) of rights. It is simply legally inconceivable for an object to hold rights. In other words, the jurisprudence of most of the world does not recognize, as Thomas Berry expresses it, that “the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”
Another consequence of recognizing only humans as beings, is that any sacred or spiritual dimension of any other form of life, or of Earth itself, is denied, and in the eyes of the law, does not exist.
The only rights recognized by law are those that are enforceable in a court of law, and these may only be held by human beings or by “juristic persons” like companies. This means that from the perspective of our legal systems, the billions of other species on the planet are outlaws, and are treated as such. They are not part of the community or society that the legal systems concern themselves with, and have no inherent right to existence or to have a habitat in which to live. This may sound like an exaggeration when most countries have laws that protect designated species and habitats, for example in national parks. However, this type of legislation does not confer rights on non-humans, it merely restricts some aspects of human behavior, usually to ensure that other humans can continue to enjoy wild areas and creatures.
Even if a legal system were to recognize that other species are beings, we must still overcome the difficulties of how any “rights” that they may have will be protected and asserted. This is difficult but essential. A right that cannot be enforced is not a right at all.
Review(s): "We desperately need some new thinking today about systems of global governance. We're stuck with the same obsolete, ignore-the-earth institutions that were brought into being after the 2nd World War, and they're now failing us ever more catastrophically. 'Wild Law' shows just how radical we now need to be in creating new institutions that are genuinely 'fit for purpose' in the 21st Century." - Jonathon Porritt, Director of Forum for the Future
"This book of Cormac Cullinan explains with great clarity how we can change our entire approach to governance so that we can continue life on a liveable planet. In its basic outlines this book is one of the finest contributions to the entire field of jurisprudence in recent times." - Thomas Berry, author of 'The Dream of the Earth', 'The Universe Story' and 'The Great Work'
"'Wild Law' is a stimulating, eminently readable response to our governance crisis. The survival of our species and health of the Earth family depends on our ability to transform governance systems so that humans become part of the ecological matrix of biological and cultural diversity. This book is a milestone on that path." - Dr. Vandana Shiva, President of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and author of 'Staying Alive' and 'Water Wars'
"The arrogance of the 'civilized' world has blinded it to the wisdom of the indigenous people for too long. Cormac Cullinan's call for the indigenous voices and the wisdom of thousands of years of human experience to be heard in the heart of our governance systems is both timely and powerful. This provocative and groundbreaking book is an important milestone in the process of finding a viable ecological role for contemporary human societies." - Martin von Hildebrand, Coordinator of COAMA, program for indigenous people in Colombia, which received the Right Livelihood Award in 1999
"Every now and then, an idea emerges that helps the human species to evolve. 'Wild Law' is one such idea and is brilliantly explained in this book. Cormac Cullinan leads us toward a new relationship with Mother Earth—just in time." - Maude Barlow, activist, co-founder of the Blue Planet Project and author of 'Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis'
"Even in an age that feels itself to be enlightened and humane, and condemns cruelty to animals, and claims to take 'the environment' seriously, the idea of 'Wild Law' still seems, to many, to be bizarre. How can wild creatures, or landscapes, be granted the same kind of respect—the same rights—in law, as a human being? Yet, as Cormac Cullinan argues so powerfully, the morality of this is clear, and the logic of the case seems impeccable. Indeed we should be asking, can we claim to be fully civilized in the absence of such laws?" - Colin Tudge, author of 'The Secret Life of Trees', 'Feeding People is Easy' and 'Consider the Birds: How They Live and Why They Matter'
"Africa, the cradle of humanity, is rich in biodiversity and human cultures. Both are being degraded and destroyed by a world order that has forgotten the role we need to play in the Earth system and the value of communities. This important book shows not only why we need to revise our governance systems completely, but also how to begin doing so in a way that draws inspiration from nature and from our diverse human communities." - Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement