Rethinking Rights in the Age of the "Anthropocene": The Potential of a Gandhian-Informed Jurisprudence for Forging Robust Environmental and Public Health Protections

The current age of climate change-what geologists call the "Anthropocene"- lays bare the falsity of the "rights" dichotomy dominant in Western legal theory. Under that dichotomy, civil and political rights are conceived of as separate from, and more important than, the right to basic health and environmental protection. The author argues that two of the key principles in the Indian texts on which Gandhi based his theory of civil disobedience-love for all beings (ahimsa) and the interconnectedness of all beings and the Earth-provide a basis for dismantling this "rights" dichotomy. The author then discusses other theories of rights that could accommodate a Gandhian-informed unified theory-one that includes civil, political, environmental, and public health rights on equal footing. Such a reconceptualization of rights is necessary to respond to the immense global environmental and public health threats we all face in the age of the Anthropocene.

Karen C. Sokol

Associate Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, US.