Humans have a history of managing and changing their natural environment.
Land clearing and urbanisation alter ecosystems, causing some animals and birds to die off while supporting the flourishing of others.
Environmental laws are enacted to mandate the control of the wildlife which has grown as a result of the human interference in the ecosystem - these human created imbalances then have to be ‘managed’ so culling and eradication follows.
A new body of research calls for a change to this approach – and advocates the operation of a higher law which trumps the needs of humans and instead listens to ‘nature’s voice’.
UTS Law’s Dr Sophie Riley says our environmental laws should work with nature rather than trying to reconstruct and dominate it.
Her research focusses on the emerging concepts of Earth Jurisprudence and compassionate conservation
It’s a synthesis of law and science, drawn respectively from emerging paradigms, such as the Great Law of Earth Jurisprudence and principles of compassionate conservation which can help guide environmental regimes towards more effective and ethical outcomes.
The new approach is specifically relevant to invasive species, where current regulation is based on harming certain species, while simultaneously overlooking environmental threats generated by humans.
Current laws allow us to kill overabundant native species in order to ensure survival of their populations, as well as killing native and introduced species to prevent them interfering with human activities – we don’t deal with the underlying reasons why species become invasive in the first place.
She argues that we need to take a step back and, instead of automatically killing animals which have taken advantage of altered environments created by humans, we should listen to the needs of nature in order to redress ecosystem imbalances.
Taking an Earth Jurisprudence approach means relying on scientific evidence to ‘find nature’s voice’.
Dr Riley’s research stresses that we cannot resolve environmental problems with the same laws, regulations and pathways that created those problems in the first place.
If you are interested in undertaking research on this topic, take a look at our postgraduate law research degrees.