1st Edition

Earth System Law
Standing on the Precipice of the Anthropocene

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after November 30, 2021
ISBN 9781032056241
November 30, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
300 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book systematically explores the emerging legal discipline of Earth System Law (ESL), challenging the closed system of law and marking a new era in law and society scholarship.

Law has historically provided stability, certainty, and predictability in the ordering of social relations (predominantly between humans). However, in recent decades the Earth’s relationship in law has changed with increasing recognition of the standing of Mother Earth, inherent rights of the environment (such as flora and fauna, rivers), and now recognition of the multiple relations of the Anthropocene. This book questions the fundamental assumption that ‘the law’ only applies to humans, and that the earth, as a system, has intrinsic rights and responsibilities. In the last ten years the planet has experienced its hottest period since human evolution, and by the year 2100, unless substantive action is taken, many species will be lost, and planetary conditions will be intolerable for human civilisation as it currently exists. Relationships between humans, the biosphere, and all planetary systems must change. The authors address these challenging topics, setting the groundwork of ESL to ensure sustainable development of the coupled socio-ecological system that the Earth has become.

Earth System Law is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research project, and, as such, this book will be of great interest to researchers and stakeholders from a wide range of disciplines, including political science, anthropology, economics, law, ethics, sociology, and psychology.

Table of Contents


Frank Biermann


1. Introduction: Origins and Evolution of Earth System Law

Timothy Cadman

PART I: Mapping the Contours of Earth System Law

2. Dimensions and Definitions, Signposts and Silos in Earth System Law

Andrea C. Simonelli, Margot Hurlbert and Timothy Cadman

PART II: The Analytical Dimensions of Earth System Law

3. Earth System Law in the Age of Humanity

Walter F. Baber

4. International Relations and the Analytical Foundations of Earth System Law

Mike Angstadt

5. An Earth System Science-based Perspective: A Foundational Feature of Earth System Law

Edgar Fernández Fernández

6. The ESL Framework: Re-visioning in the Age of Transformation and the Anthropocene

Margot Hurlbert

PART III: The Normative Dimensions of Earth System

7. Rights of Nature as an Expression of Earth System Law

Alice Bleby

8. The Ethical Place of the Non-human World in Earth System Law: Pathways of Transformation

Rosalind Warner

9. Legitimacy and the Role of Law for Social and Ecological Resilience

Brita Bohman

10. Climate (Im)mobilities in Migration Governance and Law: Integrating an Earth Systems Perspective

Andrea C. Simonelli

PART IV: The Transformative Dimensions of Earth System Law

11. The Earth System, the Orbit, and International Law: The Cosmolegal Proposal

Elena Cirkovic

12. Integrating the Mexican Water Law into the Earth System Law Perspective

Gabriel Lopez Porras

13. A Framework of Earth System Justice in the Earth System’s Legal Context

Maciej Nyka

14. Common Interest, Concern or Heritage? The Commons as a Structural Support for an Earth System Law

Paulo Magalhães

PART V: Plotting the Course of Earth System Law

15. Conclusion: Plotting the Course of Earth System Law on the Precipice of the Anthropocene

Margot Hurlbert, Andrea C. Simonelli and Timothy Cadman

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Timothy Cadman is a Senior Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance Project and an Associate of its Task Force on Earth System Law. He is a Research Fellow in the Law Futures Centre and the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law at Griffith University, Australia.

Margot Hurlbert is a Senior Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance Project and an Associate of its Task Force on Earth System Law. She is Canada Research Chair, Tier 1 Professor in Climate Change, Energy, and Sustainability Policy at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, Canada.

Andrea C. Simonelli is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, and Founder of Adaptation Strategies International (ASI).


"The unprecedented challenges we are facing in the Anthropocene require radically new governance approaches that recognize the entanglement between human activities and Earth system processes. This volume provides a cutting-edge contribution to the emerging field of Earth system law by exploring and proposing novel legal developments for governing planetary transformations created by humans."

Agni Kalfagianni, Co-chair of the Earth System Governance Project

"Earth System Law: Standing on the Precipice of the Anthropocene is a ground-breaking work in the climate governance literature. The book reassesses the status quo for legal process. To do so, it uses years of expert insight into how to meet the challenges environmental change presents to governance as its measure of assessment. Its conclusion is that the status quo for legal process has become dangerously antiquated at this critical moment in Earth’s history. Much of the book explores what types of legal reform are needed from various disciplinary positions. The result is an outline of a new theory of law, which draws its direction from pragmatic solutions to the governance problems created by climate change.

Undoubtably, this theory will appear strange and unfamiliar to many, straining their legal imagination. But this strain is a testament to the book’s importance. Many of us cling — with good reason — to our confidence in how society ought to be ordered. Our legal status quo, which supports the modern order, was hard-won in the trenches of Verdun and on the beaches of Normandy. Since then, it has served as the midwife for the birth of the modern nation-state, establishing a common ground for the negotiation of conflict in multiple contexts. Undermining this status quo may invite many risks to social stability. On the other hand, law inevitably must adapt to change and, as this book suggests, pragmatism must trump convention at this time when we stand on the precipice of environmental catastrophe.

For these reasons, Earth System Law: Standing on the Precipice of the Anthropocene is a provocative book, which ought to be read widely."

Fenner Stewart, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Calgary, Canada; Dentons Canada LLP Research Fellow in Energy Law & Policy; Research Fellow in Energy and Environment at The School of Public Policy; Climate Governance Expert at the Canada Climate Law Initiative