Ecology and the Law: Democracy, Globalization and the Greek Roots of Ecological Problems
Author: Westra, Laura
Source: Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law, Issue data not provided , pp. 8-25(18)
Abstract:So says Aristotle emphasizing the rule of law, above the “rule of man”, that is the presence of regulatory regimes that are based on “reason alone”, or on principles that stand aside from desires, or the choices of individuals. In this chapter I would like to discuss several areas of conflict between what international law demands, and what domestic low, or the actions of powerful, but unprincipled states, or other such agents can achieve, in the light of teaching of Aristotle.
The first thing to note is that Aristotle's respect for law is based on the fact that he views it as an entirely principled enterprise, as he defends as best a state with “good laws well obeyed” (Aristotle, Politics). Today instead, municipal laws of each nation are strongly influenced by the politics of their countries, so that greed or the quest for power influence not only their constitutions and legal infrastructure, but also the way they interact with the rest of the international legal community.
Hence, for example, a capitalist nation like the US will strongly support so-called “free trade” agreements, and the power of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but it will not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (all countries of the world are signatories, except the US and Somalia), or the American Convention on Human Rights, because of the presence of Article 4 on the “Right to Life”; in addition, it does not comply with a number of other international Conventions, against torture, for instance, or on the treatment of prisoners of war, among others.
In contrast, in general terms, international law is based on principles of natural justice; the writings of well-known publicists; and positive laws and precedents in jurisprudence (Kindred 2000). The emphasis however remains on principles. For instance, Judge Tanaka, considered general principles of law a primary source of international law, because they have the character of jus rationale and are “valid through all kinds of human societies” (Kindred 2000: 148; South West Africa Case 1996). Here Judge Tanaka defines the source of general principles of Law, as these include universality and rationality, following precisely what Aristotle considers to be eunomia: “good laws well obeyed” (Aristole, Politics; Barker 1973).
Document Type: Research Article
- Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law
Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law is the latest product of research by the Global Ecological Integrity Group (www.globalecointegrity.net), an organisation that has been meeting annually since 1992 to discuss scientific, philosophical, political and legal aspects of ecological integrity. This collection examines various aspects of governance from the standpoint of integrity: from democracy, to forms of Native governance, from globalization and neocolonialism to specific human rights to food, water and climate.
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