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The Forum > Article Comments > Earth jurisprudence > Comments

Earth jurisprudence : Comments

By Peter Burdon, published 2/10/2009

Under western law, nature is regarded as human property: it can be bought, sold, exploited and destroyed to satisfy humans.

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I find it amazing those someone who is thinking about this subject so much can have such a shallow level of analysis, based on nothing but conceitedness and economic illiteracy.

To start with, nature encompasses everything, including all human action and all human resource use. No-one is asserting the humans are "separate" from nature, except environmentalists who think that natural resource use, and even extinction of species, is fine if it's done by non-humans, but but morally condemnable if it's done by humans. It is the author who imagines a world in which his material existence has no basis whatsoever.

I have just disproved the author's arguments in yesterday's thread on the Green Revolution, and invite him, and anyone, to read them there. Refute them if you can, but please spare me the environmentalists' usually method of personal argument, misrepresentation, circular argument, and appeal to absent authority.

But in short, no-one has a right to talk of values over and above human values. You are merely asserting your right to use force or threats to make others comply with your values, that is all.

When the environmentalists' nonsensical mysticism about standing for super-human values is disproved and rejected, they then fall back to claiming that they were only concerned with human welfare.

But this argument in turn collapses when we see that they are in no better position to speak for human welfare, basing resource-use decisions in coercive states, rather than in liberty and property.
Posted by Peter Hume, Friday, 2 October 2009 4:54:03 PM
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As part of a Master of Laws, I am currently investigating if systemic or institutional factors are affecting the effectiveness of Australia’s environmental legal system. I won’t provide an overview of my research here, but agree that something other than the current regulatory scheme would be necessary to achieve the outcomes sought to slow, halt and reverse the impacts of human development on the natural environment. However, I feel it necessary to make some comments on the article.

The use of the term ‘property’ is somewhat simplistic and misleading. If it is referring to land holders, then it is important to remember that the largest ‘property’ owners in Australia is the Crown (in its various jurisdictions). For example in Queensland, Stateland comprises approx 80% of the total geographic area.

The States and Territories in Australia either ‘own’ or hold exclusive rights to manage, use and allocate the natural resources (such as water, minerals, quarry material and timber) within their jurisdictional boundaries, not the private landholders.

The ‘indenture acts’ referred to are passed by the legislatures on behalf of all the citizens within the respective States and Territories.

Our environmental legal system has been 'constructed' under the United Nations framework of conventions and declarations on the environment. All Australian governments signed up to these principles, including ecologically sustainable development, in 1992 (IGAE & NSESD), and since then, have enacted or amended 100s of statutes to incorporate those principles.

The responsibility for the environment’s future is a shared responsibility. But the power to make the changes necessary to meet the environmental challenge is vested in our elected representatives.
Posted by LMH, Friday, 2 October 2009 11:53:44 PM
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The law does not act to protect either life support systems or communities. It is partially because it commodifies everything, but also because it is reductionist and like most legal systems is designed to protect the interests of those in power. A number of years ago a lawyer in the US proposed that nature's interests be represented in the legal system through a kind of guardianship based approach...Whatever the avenue, if we do not start acting as though we depend on healthy ecosystems - not only legally but politically and ethically, we are going to find the law is irrelevant.

To Peter Hume. You're arguments are reductio ab absurdio - we are human, we are part of nature, therefore everything we do, no matter how destructive, is natural and therefore good. What a crock.
Posted by next, Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:37:40 AM
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Peter Hume makes some salient points but they come couched in such a torrent of disrespect that it takes some time to sift through the personal abuse to figure out what he is saying.

Notwithstanding - he is correct about there being no other source of value in relation to either nature or humans than human value. Attempts to find "value in nature" from Birch's Christian values through to the radical ecology of Naess are not constructed on solid foundations.

The issue here can be recast in terms of whose values in relation to nature will prevail. There has always been a conflict around this. Corporate values relying on commodification and a supremely instrumental attitude to nature are in conflict, for example, with democratic values that seek to guarantee the ecological conditions of existence to as many people and species as is possible. At the heart of the latter is a notion of mutuality, recognition and respect.

Respect, Peter, think on it.

Posted by anthonykn, Saturday, 3 October 2009 2:39:16 PM
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"Peter currently lives on Kaurna land in the Adelaide Plains". Are these lands subject to Native Title, Freehold Title? Are these lands property?
After all "Property is the mechanism through which nature becomes vulnerable to human exploitation". Please explain.
Posted by blairbar, Saturday, 3 October 2009 3:36:55 PM
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<Under Western Law nature is regarded as human property , and by definition is a legal object that can be bought , sold, exploited and destroyed to satisfy human preference.>

And in non western countries everybody stands on everybody else’s head so that they do not occupy land (property)or use it’s resources.

Does Peter Burdon or any member of his family live on property in the suburbs or anywhere else. The push of ordinary people like Peter into ordinary suburbs as the country grows, occupies more property and takes habitats off more species than most capitalist companies do. And those same ordinary families consume all of the natural resources dug, farmed and leeched out of the countryside and displayed in Coles and Woolworths , bunnings etc. I bet Peter likes to consume his share of exploited nature too. After all Peter, you could read by candle light and take cold showers if you really set your mind to it you know.

The exploding populations of Africa and India consume much more property because of the billions of people who don’t actually stand on top of each others heads in a column to the moon but occupy land (property) Space as the populations mushroom. They cut down the Amazon forest not because they regard it as human property but because they need the resources for survival.

I understand the message Peter is trying to convey with this article but I think he is more interested in a capitalist Western bashing and if only they’d become communist and share then the ones at the lower end like me would be richer idea. You will never legislate away land and resource consumption while populations continue to esculate it is that simple. You make lock up a rich environmental park for a while but when all the hungry dispossed faces start building up around the fences with nowhere to go you will have to change the law to let them in.
Overpopulation of humans is the real cause of species extinction, but the United Nations isn’t listening
Posted by sharkfin, Sunday, 4 October 2009 3:01:31 PM
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