Representations of our Relationship with Nature in International Law - Katie Woolaston

Katie Woolaston (Griffith University Law School) will speak on how international environmental law should emphasise coexistence with nature.

The Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative and Centre for Law and Social Justice is delighted to announce that Katie Woolaston will be visiting the Centre during October and delivering a seminar of interest to anyone interest in environmental issues and international law. Katie will explore how the frameworks of international environmental law need to be reshaped in order to tackle major environmental issues. 


International environmental law is a normative institution that reflects our relationship with nature and simultaneously shapes it. It can, and should, reflect a relationship of coexistence with nature. Instead it is premised on anthropocentricism and requires domination of the environment. The law is not conducive to a positive relationship but situates nature in a framework of use and value, and leads to a paradigm of domination. This framework affects our ability to resolve complex environmental issues such as climate change and mass biodiversity loss.

This presentation will trace the development of ‘dominance’ in international law and pinpoint specific principles and legal developments that continue to prevent a relationship of coexistence with nature. These developments include the ‘rights-based’ character of international law and the resulting emphasis on individual autonomy. The concept of human rights first created a paradigm of anthropocentricism that environmental laws have not been able to overcome. Additionally, the Western concept of development promoted a certain kind of environmental dominance, based on capitalist concepts of use and value. Finally, the failure of international law to implement a meaningful interpretation of intrinsic value has meant that the currency of such language has not been able to minimise the damage done by the domination framework of international law. Overall, the law continues to place people and individual aspects of the environment into categories and prioritises their protection based on individual autonomy and human utilisation. This in-built permanent hierarchy creates and perpetuates environmental conflicts and ignores the ecological relationships on which autonomy is based.

The final part of this presentation will focus on redemption in international environmental law; how it can reflect a more harmonious relationship and start the value shift that is required to tackle our greatest environmental issues.

About the Speaker

You can find out more about Katie's research on her LinkedIn profile

Please click here to register for Katie's seminar.

Location Details

The Boardroom, 2.42
School of Law
2nd Floor, Liberty Building
University of Leeds

For sat navs, please use the postcode for Moorland Road, LS6 1AN. 

The Liberty Building can also be found on the campus map

All welcome. This is a free event, though registration is required.

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