The Place of the Environment in State of Nature Discourses: Reassessing Nature, Property and Sovereignty in the Anthropocene

26 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020

See all articles by Tom Sparks

Tom Sparks

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Date Written: March 26, 2020

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Sparks, Tom, The Place of the Environment in State of Nature Discourses: Reassessing Nature, Property and Sovereignty in the Anthropocene (March 26, 2020). Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper No. 2020-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3561671 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3561671

Tom Sparks (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.mpil.de/en/pub/institute/personnel/academic-staff/sparks-tom.cfm

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