Principles of Earth Jurisprudence

Earth Jurisprudence is founded on core principles.  These principles serve as a code of ethics to guide our personal, professional and collective practices.

The following principles are distilled from the practice of indigenous communities, and discussions in numerous forums over 20 years.  An international retreat for practitioners of the Global Alliance of Community Ecological Governance (CEG) further explored these principles and practice. These principles help re-member – that is, restore the memory we have lost.

“It is our responsibility to make these principles the foundation of the new legal system all over the world. The time has come when human laws and Earth laws must be brought together.” (Thomas Berry, Rights of the Earth, 2002)

To transition towards a mutually enhancing presence on Earth, these principles need to be embedded in human governance systems, particularly law, education, economy and religion.

Wholeness – Earth is a single community webbed together through interdependent relationships. No living being nourishes itself. The well-being of each member of the Earth community is dependent on the well-being of Earth. The interest of the whole takes precedence over the interests of individuals.

Lawfulness – The Universe is lawful and ordered. Earth is the primary giver of law, human law is a derivative. Humans can only discover, not make, Earth-centred law.  Earth Jurisprudence recognises life is sacred with inherent value, and Earth has limits – her many gifts, such as water, minerals, land, biodiversity, are finite.

Duty of Care – Humans have responsibilities to care for all members of the Earth Community and maintain the integrity and well-being of the whole Earth Community and future generations.

Rights of Earth – Earth is a living, self-regulating being, with intrinsic value. “Every component of the Earth community has three rights: the right to be, the right to habitat, and the right to fulfil its role in the ever-renewing processes of the Earth community.” (Thomas Berry)

Mutual Enhancement – Relationships within the Earth Community are reciprocal – a cycle of giving and receiving.  For example plants and trees give out oxygen for any members of the Earth Community to breathe in, and we give out carbon dioxide for plants and trees to take in.

Resilience  – The inherent quality of all healthy living systems to grow, evolve and adapt to change and disturbance without losing their coherence.

To learn more about these and other Earth Jurisprudence principles, visit Gaia’s Earth Jurisprudence Library and Recommended Reading.

Click here for Thomas Berry’s 10 Principles of Earth Jurisprudence [Gaia EJ worksheet]

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