The following is part two of my summary of “New Thinking on Sustainability”, the law conference hosted at Victoria University of Wellington from 14-16 February 2014. You can read part one here.
Following Linda Sheehan’s presentation, we were treated to another lecture from Professor Klaus Bosselmann, following up on his keynote speech of the preceding evening.
Bosselmann’s talk built on his identification of property rights as the key bar towards adopting the limits inherent in sustainability. His contention was that, while useful, the reference to rights for Mother Earth has the risk of coming across as too “hippy” – continuing the individual discourse of entitlement (“my right”) while alienating those with historical antipathy towards the environmental movement. Several members of audience echoed this in the various question sessions, although it was pointed out that rights for nature are just one tool working towards sustainability, and that the attendant nature of our problems requires multifaceted efforts.
Instead Bosselmann’s suggestion was that it is better for New Zealand to tackle property rights up front via the inclusion of duties. No property exists in isolation from its social context, and Bosselmann spent some time talking about what he called “onion theory”: the idea that all action is contained within a social and ecological context – building towards a dynamic concept of property and human rights. New Zealand has no explicitly recognised right to property in our existing Bill of Rights, suggesting that such a shift might be easier in New Zealand than in other countries. Continue reading