The Problem with Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene Epoch: Reimagining International Environmental Law’s Mantra Principle Through Ubuntu

Kotze, Louis, Adelman, Sam and Dube, Felix (2022) The Problem with Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene Epoch: Reimagining International Environmental Law’s Mantra Principle Through Ubuntu. In: Ecological Law for the Anthropocene. Routledge, pp. 1-15. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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The Problem with Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene Epoch: Reimagining International Environmental Law’s Mantra Principle Through Ubuntu
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Abstract

Our contention in this chapter is that sustainable development is not a socio-ecologically friendly concept and legal principle that can support the well-being of the entire living order in the Anthropocene epoch. It has instead contributed, and continues to exacerbate, the conditions that are responsible for creating the Anthropocene and its deepening socio-ecological crisis. We develop our argument first by briefly taking stock of sustainable development’s history and legacy. We do so through the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic, which reemphasises the extent of global inequality and injustice that are characteristic of the Anthropocene epoch, and that paradigms like sustainable development entrench and exacerbate. Second, we reflect on the ubiquitous influence of sustainable development on institutions concerned with human development through a focus on international environmental law. We examine the principle’s tenacious constitutional law-like grip on international environmental law and governance efforts that generally seem to benefit only a few at the expense of billions of vulnerable people and rapidly declining earth system integrity. Third, with the aim of reimagining an alternative to sustainable development, we argue for the need to be open to other ways of seeing, being and knowing that can replace hubristic epistemologies of dominance and mastery with alternative epistemologies of humility and care that international environmental law (amongst many other social institutions) must embrace in order to promote ecological sustainability. To that end we employ the African notion of Ubuntu. We will argue that as an environmental ethic, Ubuntu promotes ideas of care, custodianship and stewardship and the kind of thinking that also underpins the rights of nature in Andean and Maori cosmovisions. To this end, Ubuntu is an African onto-epistemology that might stand alongside other indigenous worldviews to provide alternative ways of seeing, being and knowing to those we have become used to under the destructive reign of sustainable development.

Keywords:Ubuntu, Sustainable development, Environmental law, Neoliberalism
Subjects:M Law > M210 Public Law
M Law > M290 Law by topic not elsewhere classified
M Law > M240 Jurisprudence
Divisions:College of Social Science
ID Code:48760
Deposited On:31 Mar 2022 10:47

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