The Place of the Environment in State of Nature Discourses: Reassessing Nature, Property and Sovereignty in the Anthropocene
26 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 26, 2020
International environmental law, and in particular climate change law, are topics of keen interest in modern international law. Yet even in their modern forms, they depend upon and are governed by principles which derive from much earlier periods of international law and political thought. This chapter identifies sovereignty, as it has been interpreted and applied, as a key obstacle to achieving substantive environmental protection through the means of law, and traces that concept back to the roots of sovereignty in State of Nature theory. It analyses three prominent State of Nature theories, those of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume, in order to show that although their understandings of nature differ, each treats the natural world primarily as a resource. It then turns to modern international environmental law, taking as its case study the whaling regime, and argues that through the continued use of concepts drawn from the State of Nature tradition, an understanding of the environment as a resource to be maximally exploited is continuously re-entrenched. These conceptual foundations continue to restrain progress and development in modern environmental law.
Keywords: Anthropocene, international environmental law, legal theory, property and ownership, sovereignty, state of nature, whaling
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