International Environmental Law and the Anthropocene’s Energy Dilemma

Kotze, Louis (2019) International Environmental Law and the Anthropocene’s Energy Dilemma. Environmental and Planning Law Journal, 36 (5). p. 437. ISSN 0813-300X

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International Environmental Law and the Anthropocene’s Energy Dilemma
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We have possibly entered the Anthropocene; the most recent geological epoch where humans are thought to have become an Earth system altering geological force. A defining feature of the Anthropocene is the intimate link between its promethean Anthropos, and its mastery of the Earth’s energy sources. Because of our exclusive ability to unlock, manipulate and to transform energy in ways that support the ever-expanding human development enterprise, humans are exerting unprecedented strain upon an increasingly fragile, erratic and unstable Earth system. The Anthropocene’s energy dilemma is complex, multi-scalar, temporal and multi-faceted and at its core, this dilemma embraces various concerns. Described as a “singular and irreversible event”, the widely available and cheap, but carbon rich energy resources we have hitherto exploited, are being depleted at a fast rate and in unsustainable ways (“cheap nature is at an end” as Haraway says). The use of these resources is causing widespread pollution, climate change and inter- and intra-species injustices, while their availability, distribution and use are unequal within and among countries, thus leading to profound patterns of North-South and inter and intra-generational vulnerabilities, inequalities and injustice. Of further concern are the deeply vested, shortermist, neoliberal political and corporate interests that are exacerbating the energy dilemma while countering any meaningful transition to a sustainable and renewable energy paradigm. This energy dilemma puts society in a “double bind”, as Barnosky says: if humans were to avoid causing a massive population crash equal to pre-Industrial Revolution levels of 1 billion people, we would increasingly need more energy. Yet, if we keep relying on fossil fuels to the extent that we currently do (and the lacklustre global de-carbonization drive does not suggest that this will change anytime soon), we will likely cause a massive global species extinction, including our own.

Keywords:Anthropocene, Energy, Earth System
Subjects:M Law > M100 Law by area
Divisions:College of Social Science
ID Code:39664
Deposited On:20 Jan 2020 09:01

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