Framing Nature in Law: New European Pathways – Next session on April 27

The matter of rights of nature has already been widely discussed across the globe. The ambition of this seminar is to focus on European developments and lines of thought in order to analyse how nature is conceptualised and translated into law. The recent recognition of the Mar Menor in Spain could be a first step, but it should be assessed critically.

The composition of the organising committee is inter- and multidisciplinary, gathering philosophers, lawyers and economists. We therefore particularly appreciate interdisciplinary approaches.

The main aim of the seminar is therefore to critically reflect on the ambiguities of rights of nature. Despite an increasingly noticeable presence in academic, activist and media spaces, it seems to us that the expression of rights of nature groups together approaches that are sometimes very different. Are we talking about rights in the purely legal sense of the term, or rather about moral rights ? Is it really the same thing to make nature a subject of law or a legal person ? Is it only a question of standing, inspired by “legal persons”, or is it a question of radically transforming the dominant paradigm(s) in environmental law ? After all, haven’t the rights of nature already been enshrined in a series of existing provisions, even though implicitly ? These questions cannot be avoided, especially when positions on the issue are very often more a matter of principle than of well-informed scientific analysis.

This seminar is co-organised by the CEDRE at the Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles, the CRED and CERSA laboratories of université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, the Prospero research center and the ECN team (Environment : Concepts and Norms) of the Institut Jean Nicod at École normale supérieure.

Location : On zoom

Upcoming sessions

Mihnea Tănăsescu and Serge Gutwirth(Vrije Universiteit Brussel)“The Paradoxes of Rights of Nature”2 February 2023, 17h (EST

Granting rights to nature is an increasingly popular practice. Though only a decade ago it was a fringe movement, it has now become an almost dominant way of talking about environmental protection. This breakneck speed asks for slowing down and thinking, it asks for posing some crucial questions, or perhaps for identifying some of the new problems that are being constructed. What are the rights of nature about, and are they always about nature ? How may we understand what they are trying to do, and is it always the same ? And how do we know that they have succeeded in their project ? These are some of the problems that are being articulated around the right of nature, and that need careful attention.

In this seminar, we will tackle these issues through the crossing of political and legal theory. The basic assumption is that law and politics do not exist without each other. Therefore, the rights of nature have to be subjected to this double treatment. We begin by setting the historical stage and showing that different strands of rights of nature have developed so far. Close attention to this diversity is important, not least for plotting the power relations involved, and the uneasy relation between moral and legal considerations. These rights are formulated in the midst of complex relations between different communities of practice, each operating with different concepts of nature and having different relations with the concept of rights. We draw out some of this complexity, and show how it crosses legal and political practices in novel ways.