Extinction raises fundamental questions for environmental law and legal studies. We have to address escalating harm within current timeframes while engineering institutional and governance structures to address impending catastrophe.
In attempting to address these challenges, legal responses to extinction tend to oscillate between nostalgia and hubris. Nostalgia in terms of protecting and restoring wild places and species and returning them to a pre-human ‘natural state’ on the one hand; and hubris in thinking that we can invent nature or use technology to engineer de-extinction on the other.
Whilst environmental law can contribute to extinction it also has the potential to creatively mobilise and bring together ideas and forces for governance. The subject of extinction explicitly confronts law and governance with an opportunity to interrogate and challenge its foundations, structural dispositions and why and whether it has to worry about loss at all.
The latest Ecological Justice Group's workshop Environmental Law’s Extinction Problem discussed how we must address escalating harm within current timeframes while engineering institutional and governance structures to address impending catastrophe.
Taking place across two days in early December, the online workshop invited 16 speakers from across the world to discuss various aspects of international environmental law. The workshop interrogated and explored alternate imaginings of law, governance and ultimately new critical pathways and possibilities to challenge environmental law’s extinction problem.
Watch all the sessions below.
1. The Extinction Problem of Australian Laws and Governance
Session Chair: Prof. Afshin Akhtar-Khavari
* A conspiracy of inaction: the case of the Bramble Cay Melomys - Lesley Hughes (Macquarie University)
* Apathy vs Compassion and the Banality of Legal Extinctions - Katie Woolaston / Afshin Akhtar-Khavari (Queensland University of Technology)
* Creating a Culture of Learning: Applying Insights from Criminal Law to Species Extinctions - Phillipa McCormack / Charlotte Hunn (University of Tasmania)
2. Seeing Extinction
Session Chair: Paul Govind
* The Unseen Extinction Crisis: Snail Stories from Hawai’i - Thom van Dooren (Sydney University)
* Extinction: hidden in plain sight – Can stories of ‘the last’ unearth environmental law’s unspeakable truth? - Michelle Lim (Macquarie University)
* Environmental Law’s Extinction Problem and the (Other) Virus - Alexandra McEwan (Central Queensland University)
3. Interspecies relationships
Session Chair: Dr Michelle Lim
* ‘Ethical and Human Use’, Intrinsic Value and the Convention on Biological Diversity: Towards the Reconfiguration of Sustainable Development and Use - Werner Scholtz (Western Cape University)
* Biodiversity and species extinction: categorization, calculation, and communication - Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University) Andy Purvis (Natural History Museum, London)
* Finding Space for the Conservation of Trees in International Environmental Law - Rob Amos (University College London)
4. Challenging western legal epistemologies & cosmology
Session Chair: Dr Katie Woolaston
* Facing Mass Extinction, It Is Prudent to Decolonise Lands and Laws: A Philosophical Essay - Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (Case Western Reserve University)
* Rivers with no water: the existential threat facing law’s newest category of non-human persons - Erin O’Donnell (University of Melbourne)
* From mastery to responsibility? How extinction exposes the epistemic crisis for environmental law - Paul Govind (Macquarie University)
5. Challenging western legal epistemologies & cosmology (Ctd)
Session Chair: Dr Erin O’Donnell
* The Extinction of Rights and the Extantion of Ghehds - Glenn Albrecht (Sydney University)
* The ‘nature’ of legal decision-making about extinction - Afshin Akhtar-Khavari/Katie Woolaston (Queensland University of Technology)