What is Earth Law?

The term ‘Earth law’ describes inherently ecocentric laws that have been emerging around the world over the last few decades. Broadly speaking, the aim of Earth Law is to protect and/or regenerate various forms of life on Earth. Either as a specific aim or as a secondary outcome, Earth Law seeks to maintain the biogeochemical cycles on which life on Earth depends.

Emergent Earth Law also heralds a fundamental shift in how we experience our relationship with Earth – our home, our habitat and essentially, our life-support system. How we relate to all other species that inhabit Mother Earth – plants, trees, birds, animals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, fish, micro-organisms, fungi – as well as how we behave towards entire ecosystems, is really at the nub of Earth Law.

Earth Law has ancient roots. Our ancestors, and many indigenous groups today, recognise and honour the intrinsic value of nature and the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. This is not about paying lip service to Nature, it is a way of life. Earth Law places utmost importance on the well-being of Earth as a whole living system, because the health and well-being of each member of the Earth Community is dependent on the well-being of Earth as a whole.

Earth Law (sometimes also referred to as Wild Law, Earth Laws or Ecological Law) encompasses a wide range of initiatives and developments, such as the inclusion of Earth Rights or Rights of Nature in national constitutions, the Earth Charter initiative, the proposed international law of Ecocide and Crimes Against Future Generations, the establishment of an International Court for the Environment, local community initiatives to protect ecosystems and research into whole systems approaches to justice and governance. 

As cultural historian and eco-theologian Thomas Berry famously wrote, “the world is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects”. What underlying ethics should we apply, if we fully recognise and acknowledge this fact?