History of Earth Jurisprudence

From the website of the Gaia Foundation in London. Their webpage has some very nice photos included in the article. www.gaiafoundation.org/history-earth-law

Story of Earth Jurisprudence

The following milestones chart the evolution of Earth Jurisprudence or Earth Law, which recognises the Earth as the primary source of law and the need to comply with these laws to restore the health and integrity of the whole Earth Community and future generations.

Key dates include the practice and development of Earth Law principles, intercultural exchanges, legal precedents, events, publications and emergence of alliances.

Deep roots

Time immemorial

For millennia indigenous peoples have been living according to the laws of Earth and developed Earth-centred customs, lores and way of life to ensure they maintain the health and integrity of the whole Earth Community, for present and future generations.

Beginning 20th Century

The writings of philosophers such as Jung and Einstein confirmed that for most of human history we have understood that the Earth is the source of law. The industrial belief that law is made by humans is very recent and dangerous – as they and others warned.


Following the Atomic bomb, Einstein warned that: ‘With the splitting of the atom, everything has changed, save our mode of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled disaster.’ Einstein reminded us that our Earth is finite.


Rachel Carson published ‘Silent Spring’, which alerted us to the devastating impacts of chemical poisons being used in agriculture on biodiversity. These findings stimulated the beginnings of the environmental movement.

The first NASA photo of Earth from the Moon, ‘Earth Rise’, awoke humans to their fragility and humble place in the Universe.


Christopher Stone published his provocative article ‘Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects’ arguing that the rights of Nature should be recognised in law.


E.F. Schumacher published ‘Small is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered’, calling for a holistic approach to economics in harmony with Nature.

Satish Kumar became editor of Resurgence magazine, which promotes the resurgence of ecological, creative and spiritual wellbeing.


African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights – Legally binding regional precedent recognised the devastation of colonialism and the collective rights and duties of peoples, including self-determination and practice of their customary laws and culture. Important milestone in Africa for respect and recognition of Earth-centred customs. For more information see Earth Law Precedents.


World Charter for Nature – Legally binding document adopted by over 100 countries of the United Nations General Assembly, calling for humans to be guided by a moral code of conduct which does not compromise the ‘integrity of those other ecosystems or species with which they coexist’.


Liz Hosken and Ed Posey created the Gaia Foundation, U.K. to protect cultural and biological diversity. Over the past 25 years, Gaia has formed long-term partnerships with individuals, organisations and networks in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe to regenerate healthy ecosystems, strengthen sustainable livelihoods, and empower local communities to govern themselves according to their Earth Law traditional knowledge and practices.


Gaia was invited to work in the Brazilian Amazon by Jose Lutzenberger, Chico Mendes and Ailton Krenak.

Gaia participated in and contributed to the Altamera gathering in Brazil to protest against a dam which would have destroyed the ecosystems and livelihoods of local indigenous communities.


Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO 169) recognised the collective rights of tribal and indigenous peoples, including self-determination, spiritual and cultural rights, and customary governance.


Martin von HildebrandGaia worked with Martin von Hildebrand to establish Gaia Amazonas to work with the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Amazon to protect the region’s cultural and biological diversity, and 25 million hectares of resguardos under indigenous governance systems, rooted in Earth Jurisprudence/Earth Law.


Schumacher College formed to provide transformative learning for sustainable living.

A column called ‘Planet Earth Series’ featured articles in the Financial Times newspaper about Earth-centred living, written by advocates including Satish Kumar (Ghandian practitioner, and writer) and James Lovelock (Gaia scientist), and edited by Jules Cashford (mythologist).

Jose Lutzenberger formed Fundacao Gaia in Brazil to ‘promote socially just ecological development, regenerative agriculture, and soft technologies with intelligent and sustainable use of resources.’
‘Earth Jurisprudence’ seeds germinate


Thomas Berry visited the UK to speak about transpersonal psychology in Kilani, Ireland. First meeting with Liz Hosken and Ed Posey (Gaia Foundation) and Jules Cashford. Thomas Berry developed the term Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) at Schumacher College, calling for a transformation from destructive human behaviour to a mutually enhancing relationship with Earth and her communities.


Thomas Berry published ‘The Great Work’. Recognising ‘Earth is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects’, Thomas called for a radical re-envisioning of governance systems, particularly laws, education, economy and religion, from human-centred to Earth-centred, for the benefit of the whole Earth Community.

Ed Posey and Liz Hosken visited Thomas Berry in the U.S. to explore ideas for developing Earth Jurisprudence.


Earth Charter – precedent initiated by an alliance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) “to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family, the greater community of life, and future generations.”


1st Earth Jurisprudence meeting at Arlie House, Washington in April. Gaia, Thomas Berry and Andrew Kimbrell (U.S. lawyer) initiated this meeting for Thomas Berry to discuss his ideas of Earth Jurisprudence and distil founding Principles of Earth Jurisprudence – known as the Airlie Principles. Participants included Jules Cashford (mythologist), Martin von Hildebrand (Gaia Amazonas), and Cormac Cullinan (South African lawyer).

Gaia organised an ‘Earth Jurisprudence and Wilderness’ workshop at the 7th World Wilderness Congress, Port Elisabeth, South Africa in November which deepened exploration of Earth Jurisprudence.

Sprouting of seedlings


The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) formed, seeking African solutions to the ecological and socio-economic challenges facing the continent. The ABN developed its Community Ecological Governance (CEG) strategy, to revive their community governance systems based on Earth-centred knowledge and customs. Gaia was one of the founding partners of ABN, a network which now consists of 36 partners from twelve African countries.

Earth Governance Colloquium – convened by Gaia and EnAct International in Kwazulu-Natal. This led to the Valley of 1000 Hills Declaration, which included principles of ‘reading the law in the land’, ecoliteracy and experiential learning. Participants included Cormac Cullinan (EnAct International, South Africa), Dr. Vandana Shiva (environmental activist, India), Jacquie McGlade (Director of European Environment Agency), Don Pinnock (writer and editor), Colin Campbell (traditional healer, South Africa) and Thiong’o Ng’ang’a (Kenyan lawyer to Professor Wangari Maathai (Greenbelt Movement)).

Cormac Cullinan, commissioned and funded by Gaia, wrote the book ‘Wild Law’ calling for law to embed Earth Jurisprudence principles, including rights of Nature.

Peoples-Earth-Summit – Gaia organised a parallel Summit to the official World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, to raise voices for Earth, particularly in Africa. Cormac Cullinan launched his Wild Law book.

Resurgence published an issue on ‘Earth Democracy and Earth Justice’, (214, September/October, 2002), co-ordinated by Gaia.


Gaia invited Thomas Berry to the UK, on his last overseas trip, to meet Gaia’s associates and partners. It became known as the May Summit to reflect on his articulation of Earth Jurisprudence. The Summit drew together an international group working on community and Earth-centred governance. These included Prof Wangari Maathai (Greenbelt Movement) and her daughter Wangira, Gathuru Mburu (Kenya), Million Belay (Ethiopia) from the African Biodiversity Network, and Lara Lutzenberger (daughter of Jose Lutzenberger (Brazil). From the UK, Brian Goodwin (scientist) and Satish Kumar from Schumacher College, and Ian Mason (barrister), and others attended from previous gatherings.

Gaia and partners resolved to visit Thomas Berry in the U.S. annually to deepen Earth Jurisprudence principles and practice.

Thomas Berry gave a talk on Earth Jurisprudence at University College London (UCL), attended by many UK environmental lawyers.

The Earth Community Network was established, linking intercultural learning centres, including Greenbelt Movement (Kenya), Fundacio Gaia (Brazil), Gaia Amazonas (Colombia), Navdanya (India) and Ngwenyama (Botswana).



The Botswana experience began annually in Ngwenyama lodge, Botswana until 2009. Guided by Colin and Niall Campbell, traditional healers, members of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN) have been encouraged to remember and respect their profound and ecologically rooted African heritage. This process has played a pivotal role in strengthening ABN leadership and their Earth Jurisprudence/Earth Law work with communities. This process led to the Botswana Principles of Earth Jurisprudence. The film A Story Worth Remembering? Unearthing Africa’s Identity documents the 2009 process and why people find it so transformative.

Colombia intercultural exchange. Gaia and Gaia Amazonas facilitated ABN leaders to visit the Colombian Amazon annually from 2004 to 2009. Here they learnt how the Amazon indigenous people revived their cultural traditions and secured legal recognition of their authority to govern their sacred territories according to Earth-centred customs. This inspired ABN leaders to to return to Africa and explore these possibilities with their own communities.

These intercultural experiences led to the formation of two organisations, Porini Association in Kenya, and MELCA in Ethiopia, dedicated to reviving customary governance systems rooted in Earth Jurisprudence/Earth Law, and protecting ecological and cultural diversity. Other organisations, such as the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) in Kenya, and Mupo Foundation in South Africa, also subsequently formed to protect sacred sites and territories.

Mellese Damtie, the Dean of the Ethiopian Civil Service Training College began teaching two Earth Jurisprudence courses to policy makers. Students are encouraged to return to their communities and learn how the local customary laws are founded on Earth Jurisprudence principles.

Earth Jurisprudence study groups emerged in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana and the U.K.

The beginnings of an annual UK conference on Earth Jurisprudence took place in Knoydart, Scotland, organised by Donald Reid (UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)). Lively discussions on Wild Law with Cormac Cullinan.


The Community Ecological Governance (CEG) Global Alliance was formed at the Haartbesportsdam Meeting, South Africa and led to the Hartbeesport Principles. Participants included Jorge Ishizawa (Peru), Anders Tivell (Sweden), Silvia Gomez (Gaia Amazonas, Colombia), and allies from South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana. The focus was to revive Earth Jurisprudence principles and secure their recognition in law.

Participants then visited communities in Venda, South Africa to learn how traditional customs embedded in Earth Jurisprudence principles are lived in practice.

Bakari Nyari from the African Biodiversity Network began teaching Earth Jurisprudence in the University of Development Studies in Northern Ghana.

Anders Tivell from Sweden invited Gaia to explore Earth Jurisprudence principles with the fishing community in Kalix on the Baltic sea. This exchange revealed how there are communities in Europe who are committed to revive their traditional Earth-centred customs and practices. The Kalix community has used eco-mapping and other Community Ecological Governance methodologies to strengthen their ecological governance systems.

1st UK Wild Law Conference, ‘How can we regulate our relationship with the planet?’ hosted by UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), and Gaia Foundation. Initiated by Simon Boyle (UKELA) and Liz Rivers (mediator). Speakers included Michael Meacher MP, Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Professor Lynda Warren, Professor Bob Lee, and Begonia Filgueira (UKELA).


2nd Wild Law Conference and weekend workshop, UK by UKELA, Gaia Foundation and ELF, explored Earth Jurisprudence principles, by learning from Nature. John Elkington (sustainable business leader), Cormac Cullinan, Norman Baker MP, Satish Kumar, and Begonia Filgueira led discussions. Long-lasting connections formed between a core group of Earth Jurisprudence advocates.

Gaia’s Learning Centre hosted ‘Law and Governance from an Earth-centred perspective’, with Pat Siemen (Director of Centre for Earth Jurisprudence, U.S.A.), Margaret Galiardi and Herman Greene.

Tamaqua Sewage Sludge Ordinance – first of many U.S. Local Ordinance to recognize the Inalienable Right of Natural Communities and Ecosystems to Exist and Flourish (Rights of Nature). Developed by the community of Tamaqua and the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund (CELDF), this Ordinance was the model for language recognizing the Rights of Nature in the National Constitution of Ecuador.

Flowering of initiatives


The Centre for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) was established at Barry and St Thomas Universities in the U.S., embedding Earth Jurisprudence in the educational syllabus. The CEJ held a three-day colloquium on ‘Earth Jurisprudence: Defining the Field and Claiming the Promise’.

Gaia’s Learning Centre hosted a workshop on Organic Law with Ian Mason (UK barrister and Head of Law and Economics at the School of Economic Science).

3rd Wild Law workshop, ‘A ‘Wild Law’ Response to Climate Change’, by UKELA and Gaia Foundation. Cormac Cullinan, Andrew Kimbrell (USA), Professor Brian Goodwin, and Peter Roderick (public interest lawyer) led discussions. A mock trial explored the implementation of Wild Law principles in practice. Participants called for an Earth Jurisprudence Resource Centre. Gaia responded and led the development of an Earth Law Living Library for the wider Earth Jurisprudence Network, to map initiatives and precedents, and provide access to relevant publications and training materials developed so far.

Earth Jurisprudence provisions recognised in Kenyan Constitution – Kenyan partners of the ABN played an important role in the drafting of the Kenyan Constitution, advocating for recognition of community rights to govern land and territory according to customary laws, culture and Earth Jurisprudence principles. Those involved included Professor Wangari Maathai (Greenbelt Movement), Ng’ang’a Thiong’o and Kariuki Thuku (PORINI) and ICE, with legal advice and support from Cormac Cullinan (EnAct International, South Africa), and Gaia Foundation. Thomas Berry also provided advice for the final text.

Gaia and the Environmental Law Foundation initiated a River Thames baseline study on the potential practice of Earth Jurisprudence and Community Ecological Governance in the UK, with two communities. The study revealed some interest from the communities and that further exploration was required.

Numerous legal precedents established, which recognised Rights of Nature and our duty of care, including:

U.S Massachusetts v EPA case – Andrew Kimbrell (lawyer) and others successfully argued in court for the Environment Protection Agency to uphold its responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for the implementation of the precautionary principle, and recognition of standing for non-governmental organisations acting in the public interest.

Hungary appointed an Ombudsman for Future Generations to protect the interests of future generations.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recognised the contribution of indigenous practices to ecological governance and protection of sacred sites. For more information see Earth Law Precedents.


Centre for Earth Jurisprudence and Barry Law Review held a Symposium on ‘Framing An Earth Jurisprudence For a Planet in Peril’ in the U.S.

UKELA hosted London meeting on Earth Jurisprudence and climate change to raise awareness among the legal profession.

2nd Gaia Learning Centre workshop on Unfolding Earth Justice by Ian Mason.

4th UK Wild Law workshop, ‘Ideas into action’, by UKELA and Gaia. Gaia and UKELA commissioned and launched the Wild Law Report: Is there any evidence of Earth Jurisprudence in existing law and practice. Joe Guth (USA), Professor Lynda Warren, and Melesse Damtie (Ethiopia) led discussions. The UKELA Wild Law working group was created.

Schumacher College, in collaboration with Gaia Foundation, established its first Earth Jurisprudence course on ‘Earth Jurisprudence: Making the Law Work for Nature’. Discussions led by Cormac Cullinan, Mellese Damtie, Ng’ang’a Thiong’o, Ian Mason and Liz Rivers.

Earth Jurisprudence Precedents established:

Ecuador became the 1st country in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature in its Constitution.

IUCN, ‘Sacred Natural Sites Guidelines for Protected Area Managers’, Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series 16 published, which recognised sacred natural sites and the primary role of custodians in governing their sacred natural sites.

Spain recognized Rights of Apes. In a landmark decision the environmental committee of the Spanish parliament approved a Resolution urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project which called for the protection of the rights of chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos to life, freedom and not to be tortured.


Launch of Gaia – UKELA Wild Law Report – “Wild law: Is there any evidence of Earth Jurisprudence in existing law and practice?” Since cited by Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Ecuador.

5th Wild Law workshop, ‘Connect with your wild side’, by UKELA and Gaia. Discussions led by Stephan Harding (author of Animate Earth) and open space sessions facilitated by Rowena Harris. Led to the formation of a Wild Law education group to raise awareness and promote Earth Jurisprudence principles in education.

ABN partners defended their customary governance systems, rooted in Earth Jurisprudence/Law principles, and advocated for recognition in law. For example:

– In Venda, South Africa, community custodians developed and asserted a Claim of Rights to govern their network of sacred sites and territories.

– In Kenya, the Porini Association, with legal advocacy support from the Gaia Foundation, asserted Earth Jurisprudence principles in the final drafting of the Kenyan Constitution. While many progressive provisions embedding Earth Law principles were removed, strong provisions on culture and community land remained. Work lies ahead to ensure the Kenyan Constitution is interpreted in a manner which upholds Earth law principles.

Gaia revived monthly Earth Jurisprudence study groups to explore the principles of Earth Jurisprudence/Earth Law and learn from Nature.

Schumacher College and Gaia Foundation held its 2nd Earth Jurisprudence Workshop on ‘Building Community Resilience: African Experiences of Earth Jurisprudence’ and explored its relevance in Western countries.

Schumacher College and Gaia held an Earth Jurisprudence Retreat between a global community of practitioners working with communities to revive Earth Jurisprudence, to distil shared principles and practices and co-evolve strategies for the future. After much discussion, participants agreed to use ‘Earth Law’ as well as Earth Jurisprudence to increase accessibility to the idea and reflect that Earth is the source of law. A paper consolidating Earth Law principles over the past 10 years was developed.

Exploration of Community Ecological Governance in the UK – Gaia began dialogues with the Scottish Crofters Foundation who were campaigning for recognition of traditional crofters as indigenous peoples with rights to govern their land, under the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Gaia was introduced to fishing communities in Donegal, Ireland who were seeking to protect their community way of life, traditional livelihoods and culture in the face of European Union regulation. The community invited Gaia and Anders Tivell to the island of Árainn Mhór to share experiences of applying Earth Jurisprudence/Law and Community Ecological Governance (CEG) principles and methodologies. We continue to explore how to apply CEG in the UK.

1st Australian Earth Jurisprudence Conference – initiated and organised by Dr. Peter Burdon (Adelaide University), with support from Dr. Alessandro Pelizzon (Earth Laws), Friends of the Earth Australia, and UKELA. Inspired by the Wild Law conferences in the UK, the seeds of Earth Jurisprudence cross-pollinated and seeded in Australia. Rights of Nature and Aboriginal customary laws were discussed, and Liz Rivers (UKELA) was invited to share the emergence of Earth Jurisprudence globally. A Declaration for Earth Jurisprudence was adopted.

Eco-cultural mapping workshop, Venda, South Africa – custodians of the network of sacred sites developed maps of the past order, the present disorder and the future vision of how they planned to regain order in their territory. Watch the short film – Reviving Our Culture, Mapping Our Future – which documents the eco-cultural mapping process.

Legal precedents developed, recognising Earth Law principles:

Polly Higgins initiated a campaign to secure legal recognition of Rights of Nature and enforce human duties through a UN Declaration for Planetary Rights.

Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth was developed and adopted at the World’s People Conference on Climate Change, which recognized Mother Earth as a Living Being with rights to life, existence and to continue her vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions.

Kenya – Endorois Case – African Commission’s landmark ruling held that eviction of Kenya’s Endorois peoples to make way for a wildlife reserve violated their rights as indigenous peoples to their customary lands and to ‘free, prior and informed consent’, to culture, religion, health, and biological diversity.

Belize – Chief Justice of the Court of Belize ruled that the Mesoamerican reef is not property but a Living Being which is part of Belize’s national patrimony and cannot be sacrificed to commercial interests.
Webbing of connections


A World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth was organised by the Bolivian Government in Cochabamba, Bolivia, coinciding with Mother Earth Day on 22nd April, following the failure of the climate change negotiations at the Copenhagen Summit. Around 35,000 people from 140 countries participated and adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

Mother Earth Rights meeting in the UK, was organised by the Bolivian Embassy and UK NGOs as a follow up to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia. Participants called on governments and citizens to address systemic injustices and the historical responsibilities of industrialist countries, and to create a global movement for ecological and social justice.

Wild Law Scotland 1st Scotland UKELA Wild Law weekend established connections with the wild law movement in England.

International Gathering for Rights of Nature in Quito, Ecuador of individuals and organisations advocating for the recognition of Rights of Nature. A Global Alliance for Rights of Nature formalised, which includes Gaia and thousands of advocates and practitioners, to campaign for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth by the United Nations. Four working groups formed on: Legislative Assistance, International Advocacy, Communications and Learning, and Ancestral Knowledge.The Global Alliance for Rights of Nature is supporting a petition to Governments to implement the Universal Declaration.

6th UK Wild Law weekend – ‘Wild Law and Our Habitat: from Resource to Relationship’, UK, led to formalisation of Wild Law UK – a group which campaigns for the Rights of Nature. Wild Law UK emerged from a core group, including the UK Environmental Law Association, Environmental Law Foundation, Gaia and previous participants of Wild Law weekends, who had been meeting regularly since 2005 to develop the vision and strategy for Earth Jurisprudence in the UK. Wild Law UK contributes to the work in the UK of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

3rd Earth Jurisprudence Course at Schumacher College, ‘Whose Land is it Anyway? Empowerment and Community of Place’ , in collaboration with Gaia and Landscope. Discussions led by Alaistair McIntosh and Sulemana Abudulai (ABN) on community governance in Scotland, Ghana, South Africa and other countries.

Gaia and Wild Law education group delivered lectures on Earth Jurisprudence in universities and to community groups.

2nd Australian Earth Jurisprudence Conference – ˜Keeping the Fire: Cultural Integrity, Wild Law and Economic Development. Dr. Alessandro Pelizzon (University of Wollongong) led discussions on legal plurality and Aboriginal perspectives on Earth Jurisprudence, and Cormac Cullinan spoke on the April 2010 “World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth” in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The event was organised by Earth Laws – International Research Network on Earth Jurisprudence and Legal Ontologies, and others. The Australian Network on Wild Law and Earth Jurisprudence officially launched.

An Alliance for Future generations formed in UK and commissioned Peter Roderick, public interest lawyer, to produce a Report,˜Taking the Long View: UK Governance Options for a Finite Planet.

12th International Congress of Ethnobiology, Tofino, Canada. Custodians from 17 countries discussed and celebrated indigenous sacred sites and territories and community resilience. The “Opitsath Declaration” of principles was signed.

Conference on Law for Socio-Ecological Resilience, Sweden, by the Stockholm Resilience Centre assessed and discussed the impact of law on environmental governance, ecosystem management and sustainability policies.

Ecozoic Times – new website launched by Allysyn Kiplinger and dedicated to elder Thomas Berry and the Earth Community.

Legal precedents advocating Earth Law principles were established:

Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth adopted by participants of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth, recognises Mother Earth as a Living Being with rights to life, existence and to continue her vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions. This Universal Declaration draws on the earlier Declaration on Planetary Boundaries drafted by Polly Higgins and Cormac Cullinan.

United Nations Crime of Ecocide proposed by Polly Higgins to recognise mass destruction of ecosystems as a 5th crime against peace. See Earth Law Precedents for more information.

Gulf of Mexico Oil spill and Rights of Nature case – coalition of indigenous advocates, including Vandana Shiva and Nnimmo Bassey sue British Petroleum for the violating rights of Nature under the Ecuadorian Constitution.

Mapungubwe court case – Mapungubwe Coalition and allies launch legal proceedings to stop mining in an area of critical ecological, cultural, spiritual and archaeological importance, arguing that the mining violates children’s Constitutional rights to environment and cultural heritage.

Protection of sacred sites network, Venda, South Africa – Dzomo la Mupo (voice of Earth), custodians of the network of sacred sites, courageously take developer to court for destroying their sacred forests, violating their traditional and Constitutional cultural and spiritual rights and breaching planning regulations. The South African High Court grants an interim court interdict, requiring developers to stop building the tourism complex in Phiphidi sacred waterfall and forest, pending a full hearing.

Recognition of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Pira Parana, Colombian Amazon. The indigenous communities of the Pirá Paraná River, Amazon applied to the Colombian Ministry of Culture, who approved, to include their traditional knowledge, as part of the nation’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Climate 9 court case – direct action group, charged with breach of the peace for blockading Aberdeen airport in Scotland, defends action on grounds of urgency and moral duty to stop greater crimes of climate change. Gaia provides EJ research and communications support, and the ABN provide powerful stories of the impacts of climate change in their communities.


Eco-cultural mapping workshop in Tharaka, Kenya – The Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE), African Biodiversity Network (ABN) and Gaia Foundation facilitated a process for communities to revive knowledge and customs rooted in Earth Jurisprudence/Law principles.

African Biodiversity Network Resilience Workshop in Kenya discussed the principles of resilience and Earth systems science, and explored how this can support the ABN’s work on Community Ecological Governance (CEG) and Earth Law.

ABN Revisioning meeting – in preparation for their 10 year anniversary next year, the ABN reflected on their story of origin, what they have achieved, lessons learnt and their future visions of CEG and Earth Law.

Gaia Earth Jurisprudence study and practice groups, led by Ian Mason (on reconnecting with Earth’s elements) Colin Campbell (customary law) and Susan Canney (Gaia science).

2nd edition of Cormac Cullinan’s Wild Law book released which includes discussion on the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth.

3rd Australian Conference, ‘Earth Jurisprudence: Building Theory and Practice’ at Griffith University. Dr Peter Burdon and Cormac Cullinan launched the book ‘Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence’ which shares reflections and stories of leading Earth Jurisprudence advocates and practitioners, including Thomas Berry, Cormac Cullinan, Gaia, N’gang’a Thiong’o, and many more. The Australian Wild Law Alliance, Griffith University and others organised the event, which also launched the Earth Laws Research Network and publication of the Southern Cross University Law Review’s 2011 Special Edition on Earth Jurisprudence.

1 year anniversary of Wild Law UK and launch of ‘Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence’ in the UK. Event hosted at Matrix Chambers, co-organised by Wild Law UK and Gaia Foundation. Liz Hosken (Gaia Foundation and Chair), and authors of the book led discussions, including Polly Higgins (Ecocide campaign), Gathuru Mburu (African Biodiversity Network on customary law) and Begonia Filgueira (co-author of the UKELA-Gaia Wild Law Report). Jules Cashford (mythologist) read a message of support from Dr Peter Burdon (editor). It was a moving celebration of Thomas Berry’s vision and work for Earth Jurisprudence, and of all the inspiring initiatives which are making Earth Jurisprudence a reality. Podcast available soon.

Proposals submitted to the United Nations calling for Rio +20 Conference 2012 to promote Earth-centred governance and redefine sustainable development to embody Earth Jurisprudence principles. See UN website for proposals including by the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, Earth Law Centre, Rights of Mother Earth, Planetary Boundaries Initiative, and Gaia Foundation in collaboration with Wild Law UK, Alliance for Future Generations, and BOND-DEG – UK NGO.

Gaia Learning Centre evenings on Earth Jurisprudence principles:

– Protection of Sacred Sites and ‘Mining the Earth’, led by Vandana Shiva (Navdanya), Philippe Sibaud (researcher), Richard Solly (London Mining Network), and Andrew Whitmore (Philippines Indigenous Peoples’ Links).

– ‘Our Legacy, Our Future: Taking the longer view – UK governance for a finite planet’ led by Peter Roderick (public interest lawyer), Dr Janos Zlinszky (Senior Adviser for Environmental Policy to the President of Hungary) and Halina Ward, (director of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, UK), chaired by Philippe Sands QC.

– ‘Justice for the Earth Community: Defending the Rights of Nature and holding Corporations to Account’, by Nnimmo Bassey (head of Friends of the Earth International and winner of the Right Livelihood Award).

– ‘The Forgotten Connections: Indigenous Knowledge, Sacred Sites and Climate Change Resilience in Africa’ by Gathuru Mburu (African Biodiversity Network).

7th UK Wild Law Weekend, ‘Earth, Society and Commons: law in a time of economic and ecological change’. Discussions included rights of Nature, Earth-based education, the need to connect with place and practice wild law as a way of life. Speakers included Nnimmo Bassey on mining, rights of Nature and corporate responsibility in Nigeria and Gulf of Mexico.

UKELA Wild Law education group and Wild Law UK gave talks and published articles on Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law, including at Brighton University, Kent University and Permaculture Association.

Earth Law Precedents established:

Protection of Sacred Sites in Venda, South Africa – custodians of the network of sacred sites developed principles and local constitutions, based on Earth Law, for the recognition of their sacred sites and customary governance systems. The South African High Court extended the 2010 temporary court interdict to the builders to stop illegal development at Phiphidi falls. Contempt of court proceedings and hearing of a permanent court interdict are under way.

Protection of Karima Forest – a precedent setting case where communities are asserting their rights and responsibilities to govern and protect their sacred Karima Forest and calling for recognition of the Forest as sacred. Visit Earth Law Precedents for more information.

Bolivia drafted a Law of Mother Earth which recognises the rights of Mother Earth, and establishes an Ombudsman for Mother Earth.

First successful Rights for Nature case under the Ecuadorian Constitution. The Provincial Court of Loja granted an injunction against the Provincial Government of Loja to stop violation of the rights of Vilcabama river to flow and not be polluted.

Legislation introduced in the U.S. – Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act – to prohibit invasive chipanzee research.

First Mock Ecocide trial in UK Supreme Court, organised by the Hamilton Group and others. Polly Higgins, UK barrister, tested her proposed 5th crime against peace, Ecocide, which would hold to account directors of companies who cause extensive damage to ecosystems. Watch the film.

Declaration on Planetary Boundaries proposed, by Peter Roderick, calling on humans to respect planetary boundaries as non-negotiable and live within them. Visit Earth Law Precedents for more information.


6th Public Interest Environmental Law UK conference provided a forum to explore ‘Alternative Forms of Environmental Governance’. Initiatives included Community Ecological Governance and Earth Jurisprudence (Gaia workshop), Eradicating Ecocide (Polly Higgins), and an International Court for the Environment (Stephen Hockman QC).

‘Earth Matters – at One with Our World’, UK- a series of lectures explored how the philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence can change the way we relate with planet Earth. Speakers included Ian Mason (Principal of School of Economics Science), Liz Hosken (Gaia Foundation), Dr. Susan Canney (Oxford University) and Polly Higgins (Ecocide campaign).

Mock Ecocide Trial Sentencing, UK. Charged with the crime of Ecocide in the 2011 mock Ecocide trial, the two defendants participated in a restorative process to heal the damage caused by Tar Sands development to the human and Earth communities. During the process the defendants met with their victims who had a rare opportunity to explain the harm done and make requests for redress. The Gaia Foundation was invited to amplify the voices of Earth and of wider humanity, among other victims including indigenous peoples and future generations. Taking account of the process, the Judge’s orders included suspension of the Tar Sands and appointment of Guardians of Earth and Future Generations.

A Guardians of Future Generations mock super-jury explored the Guardians ‘super-jury’ concept proposed by Rupert Read in the UK. Polly Higgins (Ecocide campaign), and the Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations, Sandor Fulop contributed to discussions.

UKELA Wild Law Scotland weekend workshop – experiencing the wilds of Scotland participants explored the potential for a European law to strengthen wilderness protection.

Report ‘Recognising Sacred Natural Sites and Territories in Kenya’ was launched by the Institute for Culture and Ecology, African Biodiversity Network and Gaia Foundation. The Report explains the important role of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and the emerging challenges facing them, and makes a number of recommendations for communities, civil society and Government to strengthen the recognition of, and support for, community custodians of Sacred Natural Sites and their customary governance systems which, founded on Earth Law principles, protect these areas.

Earth Law Precedents established:

Statement of the Common African Customary Laws for the Protection of Sacred Sites was developed at the Sacred Natural Sites Custodians Meeting, in Kenya in response to the growing threats to Earth. Custodians from Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda shared their experiences of working with indigenous and local communities to revive their traditional knowledge, practices and governance systems for protecting their Sacred Natural Sites and Territories.

IUCN Motion on Sacred Natural Sites ‘Support for Custodian Protocols and Customary Laws’ emerged from the IUCN meeting in Korea. Recognising the growing threats to Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) and Territories and their Custodians’ governance systems from development, tourism and mining, the IUCN Motion recommends the development and recognition of community protocols according to customary governance systems, the recognition of communities’ right to say ‘no’ to development, and for a presumption against potentially destructive activities in Sacred Natural Sites and Territories.

New Zealand Government recognised the Rights of the Whanganui River. The Whanganui River iwi, an indigenous community with a strong spiritual and cultural relationship with the River, have been advocating for legal recognition of the Rights of the River since 1873. The agreement recognises the River as a single entity ‘Te Awa Tupua’ with legal rights and interests, and the ‘owner’ of its own river bed. The Whanganui River iwi are now recognised as joint Custodians (with the Government) entrusted to protect the River for present and future generations.