The Commons and the Collective
International law has evolved over the course of the twentieth century to protect human rights. But what are human rights? Does the term have the same meaning in a world being transformed by global warming and the effects of globalized trade? Are existing laws sufficient to ensure humanity’s survival?
Drawing on case law and practice and examples from philosophy, law, and ecology, Laura Westra argues that the current system is not adequate: international law privileges individual over collective rights, permitting multinational corporations to overlook the collectivity and the environment in their quest for wealth and power. Unless policy makers redefine human rights and reformulate environmental law and policies to protect the preconditions for life itself -- water, food, clean air, and biodiversity -- humankind, particularly indigenous peoples and local communities in the developing world, will face the complete loss of the ecological commons, the preservation of which is one of our most basic human rights.
Westra not only assesses the limitations of law, she also proposes possible paths to an ecologically safer future, including a new kind of cosmopolitanism, one that has the United Nations as a focal point for a new international legal order.
A key feature of this book is that it deals with both moral and legal arguments. It also draws on Greek philosophy. This reflects the author’s strength as a scholar of both philosophy and law. There are few authors in the environmental and international law fields that can bring this breadth of material and thought to bear on such a critical subject.
This book raises critical issues that have largely been ignored or deliberately repressed in mainstream debates concerning the dynamics of global ecological and geopolitical change.
Foreword / William E. Rees
Part 1: Basic Collective Rights for Law and Morality -- The Theory
1 Individual Rights and Collective Rights in Conflict: The Ecocentric Perspective and the Commons
2 The Common Good and the Public Interest: Jus Cogens Norms and Erga Omnes Obligations in a Lawless World
3 Communities and Collectives: The Interface
Part 2: Collective Rights, Globalization, and Democracy -- The Practice
4 Collective Basic Rights Today
5 Globalization, Democracy, and Collective Rights
6 Cosmopolitanism, the Moral Community, and Collective Human Rights
Part 3: Toward a New Cosmopolitanism
7 World Law or International Legal Instruments? Toward the Protection of Basic Collective Human Rights
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