Earth Jurisprudence, aka Earth Law, Wild Law, and various other names, emerges from the connection to the Earth, is less about the regulations which allow a certain amount of toxic waste to be emitted into the water supply, and more about interconnectedness and wholeness.
Environmental law is about regulation. It measures how much toxic waste we can put into the environment, what resources can be removed or polluted. I’ve heard the complaint from a lot of environmental lawyers who got into the profession because they wanted to make a difference: pushing paper around doesn’t save the earth. It assumes that the Earth is a thing and that people have property rights that allow them to do whatever is within the regulations.
Earth Law includes issues such as Ending Ecocide, having Ecocide declared a crime against peace, the Rights of Nature, and other approaches that reflect a spiritual connection to Mother Earth as Source.
The term Earth Jurisprudence was coined by cultural historian Thomas Berry. The Gaia Foundation has adopted Earth Jurisprudence as “the foundation upon which the dominant industrial growth society should reconstitute itself, in order to realign with the planetary laws and boundaries of life on our living planet.”
The Gaia Foundation has been nurturing the emergence and development of the Earth Jurisprudence movement since its inception, working alongside groups such as the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.
“Earth Jurisprudence recognizes that the Earth is embedded in a lawful and ordered Universe. Our Earth uniquely sustains life as we know it through a complex system of living processes and laws, as a self-regulating planetary organism. All species, including humans, are inextricably subject to these laws and processes.
Cultural historian, poet and geologian, Thomas Berry named this understanding of the Earth as the primary source of law, and reminded us that for most of human history, human societies across our planet have conceived law in this way. In order to comply with these life governing laws, traditional societies have derived their ethics, customary laws and governance systems from the laws of the Earth. This is rooted in the understanding that disturbing the dynamic equilibrium which sustains the conditions for life, would ultimately lead to chaos.
Earth Jurisprudence is a philosophy, a way of seeing and relating to the living world out of which we have evolved, with due respect and humility. It enables us to recognize that the dominant assumption underpinning the industrial growth model – that humans are superior and can extract from life endlessly – is both flawed and dangerous. We are now living the consequences of this inflated belief, as we face the chaos of multiple interconnected ecological, climate and social crises on a planetary scale.
The antidote to this hubristic conception of ourselves, said Thomas Berry, is to concertedly transform our way of thinking from the dominant anthropocentric or human-centerd lens to an Earth-centerd understanding of how we can conduct our lives in a mutually enhancing relationship with those with whom we have co-evolved.