The world as we know it has arguably shifted into a new era. This era, known as the Anthropocene, is a geological epoch wherein humans have altered the atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes to such a degree that the limits of the Earths planetary boundaries have been exceeded - posing significant risks for the survival of the planet and humankind. The large scale and practically irreversible environmental degradation associated to the Anthropocene is characterized by, amongst others, climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, widespread extinction of species, diminishing ecosystems, soil degradation and significant levels of air-and water pollution.
While the survival of humankind as a whole is threatened by these planetary changes, it is agreed that people situated in the developing world, including those forming part of vulnerable and marginalized groups will be disproportionately affected. As such, the Anthropocene is closely associated with issues of equity and justice.
The Anthropocene is also associated with the “global” – firstly, in terms of the extent to which the planetary boundaries have been crossed, and secondly, in terms of the scale of the challenges associated with the environmental degradation as the challenges increasingly pervade and blur traditional boundaries of politics and governance. This situation raises questions regarding the adequacy and responsiveness of the current design of law and governance systems to deal with and counter the challenges related to the Anthropocene. Existing (Holocenenic) legal frameworks and systems of governance have proven to be fraught with structural and epistemic shortcomings that necessitate an innovative, and perhaps radical revision of its tenets in order to address the challenges related to the Anthropocene.
It is against this backdrop, that the Global Environmental Law Centre (GELC) aims to foster legal research and innovation to enhance the ways that global environmental law and governance systems respond to the environmental crisis of the Anthropocene. This topic is critically considered through a number of integrated research areas. For more information on the scope of this research see “Areas of Research Focus” - click here