Sustainability & Law

Recently, more and more states take new legal paths to give nature or non-human life a higher value in society or even put them into the position of a legal entity. We want to examine limitations and potential of these legal innovations and discuss them as one, in Germany, still very unpopular strategy for effectively protecting resources, climate, and biodiversity.

Even though we often find that legal systems are able to classify every situation and regulate it according to categories of being permitted and forbidden, the question of what we human beings are allowed and not allowed to do to human beings is still largely unresolved.

In the last event of our lecture series Philipp P. Thapa, Andreas Gutmann and Anna-Julia Saigner discussed the themes of sustainability and law from a legal and philosophical point of view.

Rights are always an expression of norms and values. This raises the question of whether anthropocentric morality can be translated for nature at all. Which state of nature must not be destroyed, must be preserved? Does every living being possess a moral self-value? These were some questions raised in the event.
A public, free discourse on how we treat nature may be more important than ever. Is it then necessary to codify it in our laws? But does the law form our idea of ​​social justice? For example, women’s rights or children’s rights are evidence of a continuous evolution of the rules of how we want to shape our coexistence.

Some countries, such as Bolivia, Ecuador, and New Zealand, have already attributed rights to nature – such as the right to comprehensive restoration. Nevertheless, there is still insufficient actual protection of the environment due to the lack of sufficient court judgments. At the same time, another legal status for nature is not only an important part of a debate about social change but could increase the pressure to justify human interests over non-human life. It is hard to determine whether the legal classification of non-human life as an equivalent legal subject, would only shift the ongoing dualism between man and the environment into law texts and would thus not represent a pragmatic solution to major environmental problems, but rather threatens to intensify the problem of opposition.

The event has always shown that it is worthwhile to come together to discuss and understand concepts, individual and social ideas.