Earth System Law for the Anthropocene

Law has failed to address the ever-deepening socio-ecological crisis of the Anthropocene. In the light of, and as a response to, law’s failures in this respect, this paper argues in support of developing a new legal paradigm for the Anthropocene epoch called Earth system law. It does so first by briefly describing the Anthropocene trope and the extent and dimensions of its socio-ecological crisis. The paper then specifically focuses on international environmental law as an example of how and why law has become incapable of, and inappropriate for, addressing this crisis, and for being unable to respond to the Anthropocene’s regulatory demands. By drawing on three Earth system-related regulatory implications of the Anthropocene trope (i.e., inclusivity, interdependencies and complexity), the final part of the paper makes out a case in support of reforming law and creating a new Earth system oriented legal paradigm that is fit for purpose in the Anthropocene epoch.

Louis J. Kotze, North-west University, South Africa and University of Lincoln