Podcast: Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at North-West University and Senior Professorial Fellow in Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln

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Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75

March 10, 2021

Kimberly White
Hello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Louis Kotzé, Research Professor at North-West University and Senior Professorial Fellow in Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln. Thank you for joining us today!

Louis Kotzé
Thank you for the invitation, Kimberly. I’m very excited to speak to you.

Kimberly White
So you’re a Research Professor of Law at North-West University in South Africa, and you are a Senior Professional Fellow in Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln. Can you tell us what earth system law is?

Louis Kotzé
Oh, yes. So earth system law is a new legal paradigm that we’ve been working on for the last couple of years. And in developing this new legal paradigm, we realized, and we put great emphasis on the fact that as a human social system, law is an essential element of governance. And it certainly serves a very useful purpose as a vehicle for shaping behavior to achieve certain desired ends. That is the classical role of law after all, and law also plays a critically important role in environmental governance or the more broadly conceived idea of earth system governance, certainly, insofar as it seeks to shape or regulate or constrain, or more broadly would govern, how humans interact with other earth system constituents, aspects, and earth system processes. But we think that because law is caught up within, how can one put it, the stifling confines of its outdated Holocene orientated assumptions and orientation. It’s not necessarily seen to be compatible anymore with and responsive to an earth system approach to governance which means that it cannot meaningfully address the full scope of all the legal aspects of earth system governance. So basically, in a nutshell, environmental law, which is the legal discipline most obviously concerned with environmental impacts, does not take a systems approach. And we need to consider this, I think, in the context of the Anthropocene trope, which is also a main part of my body of work. And the legal implications of the Anthropocene trope are becoming increasingly clear, no less, because of this new geological terminology because that’s what it is; it’s a geological term. It casts no judgment on the desirability or otherwise of this new state of affairs. But it does invite profound normative questions, as Tim Stephens, our friend from the University of Sydney, says. And I think that these questions will ask of us to consider how and by us I specifically mean lawyers, but also other scientists and people interested in governance. These questions will ask us to consider how, and the extent to which, the Anthropocene as epistemology or trope is changing our perceptions of law as a regulatory institution, including our perception of law’s content, its purpose, its objectives, and certainly also its design. These questions will require us to reflect on human agency and the role of law in governing human actions in the Anthropocene, including certainly the impacts of these actions on the earth system and on the many other earth system processes and aspects and the links that these also have continued human existence on earth. So, to me, at least, the Anthropocene in this sense, allows for a sort of opening up, as it were of prohibitive epistemic closures in the law and of the legal discourse more generally, and perhaps even more importantly, of the world order that the law operatively seeks to maintain, to a range of other understandings of cognitive frameworks for global environmental change. So the Anthropocene reveals the contexts to contemplate possible ways to mediate this change through the law. And as a result, I think there is pretty much general agreement that the Anthropocene will ask of us to critically revisit the many traditional or trite assumptions that we have internalized over so many years, certainly since 1972 since the Stockholm conference.

The idea of earth system law is that the development of such a new legal paradigm will require considerable creative, certainly, out-of-the-box thinking alongside the imagery of this earth system metaphor. And this will not be a straightforward or easy task, we think. And lawyers cannot go this alone. So we would need to embrace and rely on the expertise and the insights and the creative thinking of a whole range of other disciplines. I’m thinking of earth system scientists, geologists, geographers, ethicists, to name but a few. And I think we should be motivated by the idea that little is more difficult than learning to think differently. And we would need, certainly as lawyers speaking for myself as an environmental lawyer, to try and think differently. Now, are we willing, and will we ultimately be able to upset and criticize and rethink and reconfigure our traditions, our beliefs and attitudes, when it comes to thinking about a different type of law or legal paradigm that we want to have, and that’s a better fit for the purpose of the Anthropocene? Personally, I believe that we are, and I want to invite people to join us in exploring the new legal paradigm of earth system law. And I see certainly a lot of potential for people involved in the Common Home of Humanity initiative, also to participate in this grander project, Kimberly, thanks.

Kimberly White
Thank you. I think that’s great. We actually had professor Will Steffen on one of our first episodes, and he’s one of the top earth system scientists. And we were able to learn about more of the science. So it’s really great to learn more about the law side of the earth system.

Louis Kotzé
Absolutely. We certainly rely a lot on the work of Will Steffen. And also, certainly, his work on planetary boundaries with Johan Rockström. And in the next few weeks, a new research handbook on law, governance, and planetary boundaries will appear with Edward Elgar that was co-edited by myself and Duncan French, with contributions actually also from Johan Rockström, from Will Steffen, and several other people that are working in this area.

Kimberly White
Fantastic, looking forward to checking that out. And to go further into earth system law, you’re actually one of the founders of the Earth System Law Task Force. Can you tell us more about this?

Louis Kotzé
Yes. So the task force is an extremely exciting endeavor, an opportunity to become involved with the work on earth system law. So it is part of the Earth System Governance Network that was founded by Professor Frank Biermann from Utrecht. The Earth System Governance Network is currently, it’s a global research alliance, and it is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change. Now, the Earth System Governance Research Alliance takes up the challenge of exploring political solutions, including also legal solutions, of course, because of the link between politics and law and social behavior, and model more effective governance mechanisms to cope with the current transitions in the biochemical systems of the planet or they more broadly see the earth system. So the Earth System Governance Project and its network set up the task force. There are other task forces as well dealing with other issues, and ours was created in 2017. And it focuses specifically on earth system law. The task force established an interdisciplinary community of scientists, mostly lawyers, but there are certainly also non-lawyers among us, thank heavens. There’s a saying, keep the lawyers out, and that makes a lot of sense if you want to find real solutions to problems. And it is people working in the field of sustainability, law, and governance at all levels of social organization. And this is also an open and very warm invitation to everyone to come and join us. So Rakhyun Kim and I, as you said, are the scientific co-coordinators, and we would love for people to sign up to the work that we do. In 2019, the network’s Earth System Governance Network launched its specialist journal with Elsevier, called Earth System Governance. And it includes a dedicated section for law, and I’m the associate editor for that section of law. And it was in this journal that Rakhyun and I published this first piece on earth system law. And I’m very happy to say that in the next few months, there will also be a special issue on earth system law later this year, where we’ve invited a range of specialists to reflect on this growing debate about what earth system law is. Perhaps if anyone is interested, you are more than welcome to simply search for Earth System Governance Network, and you’ll be directed to the official website. And then, you will find all of the information that you need about the annual conference of this network, which this year will hopefully, COVID restrictions permitting, take place in Bratislava. There’s a lot of online events as well. Common Home of Humanity is also very directly involved with the task force, to be sure, and its works, so there’s a lot of connections. You’ll also find a lot of information specifically on our task force and several other task forces. So please check it out. And if you are interested, get in touch either with the Earth System Governance Network or with me personally. My contact details are available on the internet or with Dr. Rakhyun Kim at Utrecht.

Kimberly White
Fantastic. I think that’s going to be really interesting for everyone to check out. Now, I would like to dive in a little bit further into international environmental law. Currently, what do you see as the main limitations or challenges of international environmental law in the age of the Anthropocene?

Louis Kotzé
Oh, goodness, Kimberly, how much time do we have for this? This is obviously the big question. And it is an easy answer. But it’s also a difficult answer. So I think much of my work the past years has been trying to look at what is wrong with international environmental law. And doing that, one kind of gets demotivated and pessimistic as well. That was also one of the reasons why we deliberately decided let’s stop criticizing international environmental law and showing its gaps and let’s try and look at the brightest side and what could be, and that is why we are trying to kind of think more optimistically about this evolving idea of earth system law. But what prompted us to look at it is exactly what you say is the limitations and the gaps in international environmental law. And there are many, but I think I could think of perhaps five, which we can have a brief discussion here about.

So first, I think we all agree that international environmental law emerged in the years following the Great Acceleration, which is still basically the current post-Industrial Revolution era that we live in. And it’s a period in earth’s geological history that signals a global-level, synchronous step change in the human enterprise, and the simultaneous human-driven change in many features of earth subsystems structure and functioning. But despite its relative maturity, if one assumes that international environmental law already started developing in the early 1970s, at least formally, it remains a regulatory intervention that is still at the periphery of the social regulatory system. It is essentially, let’s be honest, a collection of prohibitions with modest impacts on deeply intertwined social-ecological relationships. And in sum, I think it’s fair to say that international environmental law, and environmental law more broadly, also on domestic and regional levels, have failed to keep humanity from crossing the critical planetary boundaries that exemplify the Anthropocene social-ecological crisis in concrete terms. So it’s clear the earth system science, as Will Steffen would have told you as well, certainly in his podcast, is that the science is there, we are crossing planetary boundaries, we are disrupting the earth system. And of course, one cannot only expect of the law to be responsible for keeping us within the safe operating space of the planetary boundaries, and to keep the earth system intact, and to protect its integrity, and to ensure planetary justice, and all of this. Law alone is not up to the task, and it’s unfair to expect that law alone should be responsible for this, but law will play a decidedly important role in doing this, along with other social regulatory interventions such as politics, economics, religion, literature, ethics, the whole collection of social and normative interventions that shape human behavior. So, law won’t be solely, exclusively responsible for this, it would be unreasonable to expect it, but it would play a decidedly important role. And my point is the role that international environmental law has played to date has not been all that great, even though, of course, there are exceptions and some victories such as the ozone layer, where international law has actually managed to make a very positive contribution, but it can still do much more.

So a second concern, I think, is international environmental law’s very worrying lack of ambition. It’s lack of normative ambition at a time when precisely such ambition is critically required. The state of our deteriorated earth system is such that deep structural change in global governance and global law is urgently required both inside and outside of the formal United Nations system. But environmental law, at best, only pursues incremental change in the form of the public sphere, which is insufficient to bring about social-ecological change at the level and with the speed needed to respond to meaningful earth system transformations.

A third point, perhaps, is that the multilateral environmental law and governance domain remains predominantly state-centric, largely depending on the state as the central source of its legitimacy and authority. And this is so despite the emergence of non-state entities and civil society movements, as increasingly important actors in polycentric forms have a type of bottom-up global environmental governance. So, despite the emergence of these non-state actors, they still do not play any seriously meaningful role in the negotiation, enforcement, and revision of multilateral environmental agreements, which still seem to be the mainstay of international environmental law, and which is still seen as the only guiding or behavioral changing instruments of international environmental law. So, a purely state-centric legal paradigm obviously shuts out any meaningful involvement, incentivization, and promotion of non-state actors in earth system governance, again at a time when such involvement is, in fact, required more than ever before.

A fourth aspect, certainly reflecting on its ontological orientation, and despite its rhetorical ambitions, the function of international environmental law in broad terms has been, let’s be very honest, to promote a short-termist, utilitarian, and neoliberal economic human growth agenda by protecting environmental resources for the social, economic, and therefore unsustainable development of some privileged humans of the present generation. So, and this is a point that Klaus Bosselmann certainly has made many times over also in his podcast in this series and Prue Taylor as well, is that environmental law remains anthropocentric. And it is not predominantly concerned with advancing ecological sustainability well into the future, despite some encouraging, but ultimately, faltering normative attempts to do so during its early formative years. But the main point is that environmental law has failed to ensure any meaningful degree of sustainability with respect to humanity’s continuing dependence on and interaction with ecological processes because it does not embrace an ecocentric orientation.

And the final point here, with respect to what is wrong with international environmental law, if I can put it this way, is that the focus of environmental law remains decidedly narrow and sectoral while the discipline of environmental law has correspondingly not yet fully embraced, to the extent that it should I think, an interdisciplinary research agenda. Mostly, perhaps, as a result of its historical development trajectory, environmental law does not follow an all-encompassing, integrated, and reflexive systems approach. Environmental law and much of its scholarship instead continued to view issues such as water, air, soil pollution, nature conservation, waste management as isolated, discrete issues that can be regulated by technocratic interventions based in and operationalized by sectoral and issue-specific laws. So it remains bound to define places, spaces, habitats, ecosystems, species, and objects. And this, of course, runs the risk of resulting in regime deference, regime abdication, and problem shifting, as Harro van Asselt and Rakhyun Kim have shown in much of their work. And this is a classic problem of fit between the global environmental governance architecture, including the legal rules that belong to that architecture, and the dynamic, the complexly adaptive and erratic earth system, as Oran Young argues, and certainly the body of international environmental law, and its accompanying institutional maze, on the one hand, and the functioning of the earth system on the other are currently not aligned. And that is also one of the reasons that prompted us to start thinking about the concept of earth system law as a kind of a bridge between the sectoral, mono-disciplinary approach of environmental law to an approach that more fully embraces an earth systems perspective.

Kimberly White
We may have touched on this a few minutes ago, but I want to explore it a little bit more, and that’s the roots of environmental injustice. How deep into our past do the roots of environmental injustice go?

Louis Kotzé
My goodness, that is yes. So again, one can write a book about this, and several books have been written about this. So, it goes back probably since pre-colonial times, but we specifically observe it in the colonial era where industrialized nations kind of exploited and used their powers of innovation, their economic power, and their might, to exploit an extremely vulnerable world. Certainly being African coming from South Africa, one can also still even see the scars that these historical activities left and are still patently evident in much of Africa. So, yes, these injustices reached back to many, many generations before us, but not only to the living human world. I think one should also try and see planetary injustice in a much broader context to include the more than human world, nonhuman living beings, and the extent to which humans have as, kind of in a predatory way, fed and are still feeding off the nonhuman world, which we see as resources. And the word resource is, to me, a terrible word that is often used in law and environmental protection policies and in international environmental law, and elsewhere. And that certainly is the type of language that we need to shift away from. We must also be attentive to, if you look at critical legal scholarship, the work with people such as Anna Grear, for example, is doing and Sam Adelman, looking at the type of language that law employs that other people in the poor global south, it is still very masculine. And international environmental law embraces very much, I think, this masculinist ontology of the empowered white, Northern European, powerful male, human subject, which is not the type of ontology that I think is still appropriate anymore. We would need to embrace alternative ontologies of care that are much more open to other multiple gendered voices, certainly, other Indigenous views. And ontologies that also recognize the vulnerability of the living order; everyone is vulnerable, but some are more vulnerable than others. And our laws need to respond to that and need to be cognizant of that. But environmental justice is historical, but it is also obviously ongoing, and we see patterns of injustice very clearly currently, for example, also in COVID-19, isn’t it? Where people in the global south are very clearly having far, far worse access to health care, to vaccines, and so forth. And this really is a concern, so it highlights COVID regrettably, that a lot of these injustices are still very much part of our society. And it is also being perpetuated, I think, to a considerable extent, by corporations. And certainly by corporate exploitation, also in the form of neocolonialism, where some countries are engaging in neocolonialist projects in Africa. In Latin America, for example, palm oil production, when massive, massive areas of rainforests are being destroyed to plant palm oil, people are forced off their lands, Indigenous communities are even killed.

We see this with the Shell Oil Company with the Indigenous people in Nigeria, for example, on the continent where I live. So we also need to be cognizant of and critical of ongoing corporate exploitation and these predatory practices that many governments, let’s be honest, are underwriting and approving, and are even promoting.

Kimberly White
Absolutely, and, you know, on the palm oil issue, it’s interesting you say that. That was the subject of a paper I wrote not too long ago, where I discussed how much Borneo has lost from the palm oil plantations and just how destructive that industry has been, and not just environmentally, but socially, there’s a lot of issues that come with that as well. There have been numerous allegations of human trafficking in the palm oil industry. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of times, especially in rural communities, where these companies will pay their workers barely anything, and if they fail to meet their quotas, harvesters are threatened with pay cuts. Some have even had their passports seized by the companies in an effort to keep them from running away. Essentially, it’s become this almost form of modern slavery where they can’t leave until they pay off their debts to the company, which can take years. Child labor is also an issue in the palm oil industry. Children will have to drop out of school and go to work at these plantations if a family member is unable to meet their quotas due to illness, age, etc. And I think people don’t realize, you know, how much of a problem palm oil is, and that’s why we need to look for those more sustainable alternatives. Or, at the very least, make sure the palm oil being sourced is both ethical and environmentally sustainable.

Louis Kotzé
Absolutely, I cannot agree with you any more. And that, to me, is also where the benefit of a systems approach lie because, let’s be honest, palm oil is a solution that not only environmental law, but other parts, other areas of law, has created. It is a solution to the potential energy crisis or to the ongoing rather energy crisis and as a means to address carbon outputs and so forth. So this solution in brackets is now turning out to be a massive problem because the solution was developed with a very one-sided point of view. So when we developed the situation, had we taken a systems perspective and actually look at what the long-term consequences of this could be, what the interests of the local communities would be, what the impacts of this on the communities would be, and so forth as you say, we might have even discarded palm oil as a possible solution and looked at something altogether different or we would have gone about it in a very different way than we currently are. Solar radiation management is another such example where we don’t know what the… it is a type of new technology, but we are not entirely certain what the medium and long-term impacts are going to be on the entire earth system and on earth system integrity. And again, I think the only way to at best try and evaluate this would be through such a systems approach which would enable you to look at multiple perspectives and interests.

Kimberly White
Definitely, and, you know, going back to the economic perspective, I recently watched the Protect the Amazon special on EarthX. And there was an interview with Dr. David Suzuki, and he talked about how our global economy was built on the idea of cancer, and he compared the economic system to cancer cells. And I think it was probably one of the best descriptions of the destructive nature of the business as usual mindset of our economy that I’ve actually heard. I found that particularly interesting.

Louis Kotzé
Absolutely, and I mean to this end, we also need to recognize the extreme destructive power of neoliberal economic development and neoliberalism as such. And it is on these core ideas that we have kind of created, which Ben Richardson from the University of Tasmania called these concepts such as sustainable development palliatives. They are these ideas that we create, that we tell ourselves, yes, we need to balance, which is the word that’s always used, economic, social and environmental concerns for the best outcome. But what does that balancing mean? What does it entail? Evidence and experience, certainly to date, suggest that it certainly results in massive environmental destruction. And it increases the vulnerability of especially vulnerable sectors of society and of the nonhuman world as well. And what I am happy about at least is that there seems to be an increased recognition, as you also say, within the scholarly community and elsewhere, also in civil society, about the very danger of these neoliberal concepts.

Kimberly White
Now, according to the recent NDC synthesis report, the new climate targets submitted by countries would reduce emissions levels by less than 1 percent by 2030. And the United Nations Secretary-General stated, “The science is clear, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius we must cut global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels.” Now, current law seems unable to achieve deep structural reforms, and you mentioned that earlier. Do we need to rethink the legal concept of the planet, and what role can international environmental law play in helping us achieve this?

Louis Kotzé
Yes, absolutely. I think that the current international environmental law is certainly not sufficiently ambitious to, and therefore hence inappropriate for, tackling the climate crisis. And we see this also in the ongoing climate negotiations. We see this in the content of what is being negotiated. We see this in the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCCC, and the many decisions that are being taken is that countries simply for some other reason, now, we know what the reason is, it’s because of economic development. But countries do not seem willing to take more drastic steps to commit themselves to be more ambitious. So, again, I think that we need to think hard about how we are going to achieve this. Law is not the only answer. Law will play a decidedly important role in this entire endeavor. Politics, of course, I think, is the main problem here. We would need to see better politics being made by better politicians that hopefully could also embrace more careful and caring epistemologies of care, such as those that we see emerging in Latin America, the rights of nature paradigm in Bolivia, Ecuador, and so forth. In South Africa, the concept of ubuntu, notions of degrowth, and so forth these all seem to be fairly radical, but they are only radical because they are in such stark contrast with the status quo. And I think once we start talking about these alternative, more normatively ambitious and radical concepts, and epistemologies of care and humility and vulnerability, would we be able to set the scene for perhaps even politicians and legislators and lawmakers everywhere to fully embrace these concepts when they make law and when they negotiate climate targets and so forth. And to this end, also civil societies playing a tremendously important role. The Fridays for Future movement, the international non-legal tribunals that are being held all over the world on human rights abuses, for example. These are all very powerful civil society energies that I think have considerable potential to getting us from here, where we currently are, to where we want to be. And this is a situation where we want to be, to me at least, a political, legal, economic order that would embrace the concerns of everyone equally. One that recognizes that everyone is vulnerable but that some are more vulnerable than others. So it is an order that should recognize, also differentiate the distributed vulnerability of people or humans and nonhumans equally.

Kimberly White
Now, more and more people are calling on their governments to meet the challenges of climate change. However, it’s easier for governments and industries to prioritize corporate profits and short-term gain over intergenerational responsibilities. In “International Environmental Law’s Lack of Normative Ambition: An Opportunity for the Global Pact and its Gap Report?” you said, “If we agree about everything, nothing changes. It is when people become hostile that human rights are adopted,” Can civil disobedience be the spark needed to enact real change?

Louis Kotzé
Yes, those were probably the harsh words coming from me, but I won’t apologize for them, and I will repeat them as well. And I still maintain exactly that sentiment, and I still support it to its fullest extent. I think civil disobedience would be key in trying to achieve the type of structural changes that would be necessary. Unfortunately, from my point of view, is that the entire COVID pandemic has unfortunately managed to shift a bit of the attention away from these emerging subtle energies that we saw around Greta Thunberg, for example. There are many other examples as well, the Fridays for Future movement. And it has, unfortunately, I think, managed to dilute a bit of this energy that we’ve seen before the pandemic, and I hope that we get this back. And I hope also that the patterns of injustice, the planetary patterns of injustice that the pandemic is now again, revealing, certainly also, I hope would be an instigator and a motivator for future civil disobedience movements. So, in summary, it would be key in initiating and driving the types of structural changes that we would need to see. And it’s not about only civil society being involved. It is also about scholars becoming involved, students becoming involved because, in a sense, we are also obviously part of civil society. And in the work that we do, we need to be vocal. In this podcast series that you have, which is a great initiative, it raises awareness; it spurs people on, hopefully, to become more critical not to accept that the status quo is necessarily the only or the correct way to go about things in the future. If we can only learn to start being critical and to question and not simply accept everything as being the truth, then I think we’ve already won a big part of the battle. And that will enable us further to capitalize and to reinforce the emerging movements that are busy with and are engaged with civil disobedience, which must certainly be spurred on as far as possible.

Kimberly White
Absolutely, we can’t be complacent anymore. Complacency is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Louis Kotzé
Absolutely, 100 percent. And again, it’s by being critical, it is by asking the uncomfortable questions, let’s be honest, and by doing uncomfortable things that would not necessarily be universally popular, that we would be pointing out what is wrong and what needs to change and then trying to motivate people and to get them on board to help us drive and move this change. I’m extremely excited about the collective global solidarity that is emerging and the collective energies that we see all over the world in many of these networks, the Common Home of Humanity initiative, the Earth System Governance Network. There are many other examples of people getting together and trying to point out and to illuminate, to reveal what is wrong and what needs to change. And as you say, try to think about innovative ways not to be complacent and to move things forward in a different direction.

Kimberly White
Absolutely. Change does not come from complacency, it comes from being uncomfortable. As you said, we need to ask those uncomfortable questions and have those conversations because they drive change. Now, one more question I would like to ask is on the Common Home of Humanity. Could you share your thoughts on the proposal from the Common Home and Humanity? Right now, climate is viewed as a common concern of humankind, do you think the common heritage concept for the earth system would better enable us to manage this social-ecological crisis?

Louis Kotzé
Absolutely, because the common heritage concept to me is another example of an epistemology of humility, an epistemology of care, of one that recognizes and sees the vulnerability of the entire living order, and one that is more and better able, certainly, to more holistically as well address the shared, the common, the shared social-ecological crisis and deeply pervasive and increasingly critical forms of planetary injustice that we are all experiencing across the world. So this initiative is a very useful attempt, I think, to illuminate and to reveal also our shared vulnerability. And its focus on the common heritage, the common home, the common problems that we share, but also the need to search for common solutions, is extremely valuable. And to that end, I think it also fits in very well and very neatly with our idea of earth system law and the project of earth system governance, to the extent that it recognizes a need for a holistic, common approach to the social-ecological crisis. And it also recognizes that the solution won’t necessarily only lie in law or a specific type of law or international environmental law, but it will come from different places from international environmental law, from climate law, from civil society, and so forth. So it is certainly to me an extremely worthwhile initiative and endeavor, and I’m very happy to be part of this. I’m very happy to support it. And I’m extremely proud also to see how it has grown and how it is growing and the influence that it evidently is exerting. And the interest that it is attracting from multiple stakeholders at multiple levels involved in the various aspects of earth system governance.

Kimberly White
I couldn’t agree with you more. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?

Louis Kotzé
Well, what I can say is that I’m extremely grateful for opportunities such as this to be able to talk to people and to share ideas. Because I think this is a good starting point is that we need to talk to one another. Not in the formal conference setting, but also in alternative ways where we share our concerns, where we can be open and honest and be critical. And try to look for collective solutions also to the shared problem that we are facing. And I really hope, and I would encourage everyone to become involved in this conversation, and to make contact with people who are working in this field, and to contribute to this collective endeavor of trying to sketch out an alternative future, different pathways leading to different, more accommodating planetary futures that are caring, and that recognizes the vulnerability of the entire living order.

Kimberly White
Thank you so much for joining us today, Louis!

Louis Kotzé
Thank you very much, Kimberly, for the opportunity to speak to you.

Kimberly White
Alright, and there you have it. Currently, international environmental law is not equipped to handle the ongoing social-ecological crisis. Environmental law and governance remain predominantly state-centered, depending on the state as its central source of legitimacy and authority. Earth System Law recognizes the need for a holistic, common approach to the challenges facing our global community. The common heritage concept and the Common Home of Humanity initiative can be the new legal paradigm to keep the earth system intact, protect its integrity, and ensure planetary justice for our common future. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on March 24th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Princess Esméralda of Belgium, journalist, documentary‐maker, environmental activist, and President of the King Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.

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