Articles by Michelle Maloney

Dr Michelle Maloney has a Bachelor of Arts and Law (Hons) from the Australian National University and a PhD in Law from Griffith University, Australia. She has more than 25 years’ experience creating and managing social justice, community development and ecological justice programs, including ten years working with First Nations Peoples in Queensland, on social justice and cultural heritage projects. As Co-Founder and National Convenor of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA), Michelle manages the strategic direction and governance of AELA, including the extensive partnerships and networks that AELA has with the legal, academic, indigenous and environmental advocacy communities. Michelle also designs and manages AELA programs and events, including AELA’s Rights of Nature Tribunals. Michelle has written a dozen articles and edited two books about Earth jurisprudence and wild law - “Wild Law in Practice” (2014) and “Law as if Earth Really Mattered: The Wild Law Judgments Project” (2017), both with Routledge. She teaches an annual Earth Laws subject at Griffith University Law School. Michelle is the Australian representative on the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, a member of the Steering Group of ELGA, the Ecological Law and Governance Association and is co-founder and Steering Group member of the New Economy Network Australia (NENA).

Rights Of Nature, Earth Democracy And The Future Of Environmental Governance

This paper formed part of the Green Institute Report ‘Rebalancing Rights: Communities, Corporatations and Nature’.

Around the world, people are working hard to protect their local communities and local ecosystems from the destructive impacts of excessive industrial developments.  One strategy that is receiving growing attention is changing the legal status of nature from being human property or, at best, a protected ‘object’, to being recognised as a living entity with its own legal rights – a subject of the law. But can this approach make any difference to the legal protection of nature?

In this essay, I’ll outline criticisms of traditional environmental law that are used to argue that a paradigm shift is needed in western industrial legal systems and trace the origins of the Rights of Nature movement and the developments around the world that have now seen the Rights of Nature shift from being a “fringe” legal issue, to one that is capturing the imagination of courts, lawyers and communities around the world. While the concept is potentially open to many of the same problems faced by ‘traditional’ environmental law, it also represents an exciting and optimistic development in legal theory and practice that is being embraced by a range of communities, and can offer an effective way to advocate for Earth democracy.

Continue reading →