Listening to nature's voice: Invasive species, Earth jurisprudence and compassionate conservation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, 2019, 22 (1), pp. 117 - 136
Issue Date:
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© 2019 The Author. Humanity's land management practices reconstruct nature by destroying and degrading habitats, species and ecosystems, and creating environmental imbalance. The latter can manifest in overabundant or invasive species, imposing a welfare burden on unwanted animals when they are targeted for eradication and control. Such approaches not only overlook animal wellbeing, but also ignore the role that humans have played in species' classifications. As societies grapple to manage the unstable environments they have created, they have also started to realize that standards set by paradigms, such as sustainable development, do not sufficiently engage with the efficacy or ethics of existing practices. This article argues that a synthesis of law and science, drawn respectively from emerging paradigms, such as the Great Law of Earth jurisprudence and principles of compassionate conservation, can help guide environmental regimes towards more effective and ethical outcomes. From a legal perspective, the Great Law subordinates human law to a metaphorical nature's voice, while from a scientific perspective the scientific underpinnings of compassionate conservation identify that voice. Although compassionate conservation injects empathy into the decision-making processes, it is a form of empathy based on science that commences from the stipulation that regulators should first do no harm. It is a call that is specifically relevant to invasive species, where current regulation is based on harming certain species, while simultaneously overlooking environmental threats generated by humans. By using science to identify nature's voice, and law to listen to that voice, regulators can start to design regimes that work with nature, rather than trying to reconstruct and dominate it.
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