The Journey of EJ Since 1999

The following are highlights of the initiatives and precedents, among many others, which are contributing to the revival, practice and recognition of Earth Jurisprudence.  Together these milestones are contributing towards a shift from human-centred to Earth-centred governance systems for the health of the wider Earth Community of which we are part.


African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights passes a resolution recognising sacred natural sites and their customary governance systems.

City of Mexico recognises rights of Nature in its Constitution.

In India and New Zealand, rivers are acknowledged by courts and treaty respectively to have legally enforceable rights.


United Nations Harmony with Nature holds first ‘virtual dialogue’ on Earth Jurisprudence and release a report taking an Earth-centred approach to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A UN Knowledge Network for Harmony with Nature forms. The UN also a Rights of Nature for Peace and Sustainable Development conference in Geneva.

Earth Jurisprudence takes root in South Korea – The People for Earth Forum held their founding conference in November 2015 to contribute to the establishment of an Ecozoic culture in Korea. A delegation from the Forum visited The Gaia Foundation in the UK to learn more about Earth Jurisprudence initiatives.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights system recognises the importance of sacred natural sites – with the Ugandan Commissioner relaunching the 2015 ABN-Gaia Report, and the Commission fast tracks a resolution drafted by Gaia and ABN recognising sacred natural sites as no-go areas and their customary governance systems rooted in EJ principles.

Earth Jurisprudence Training and induction and refresher trainings in South Africa, Uganda, Benin and Zimbabwe, on reviving customary governance systems and developing skills and qualities to be an EJ Practitioner. EJ groups emerge in Ethiopia, Benin, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya, and a series of African EJ newsletters is published for the global EJ network.

Earth Jurisprudence precedents included: IUCN (Motion 26), drafted by Gaia and allies, recognising sacred natural sites as no go areas from extractive activities; UK political party, the Green Party, pledge to bring rights of Nature into law; and UK community assert for recognition of the rights of a river (Frome).


Pope Encyclical calls for care of our Common Home, living in harmony with the laws of Nature and respect for indigenous peoples’ cultures.

Launch of a report to the African Commission “A Call for Legal Recognition of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and Customary Governance Systems”.

Earth Jurisprudence Training in Ethiopia, Kenya and Botswana on applying the holistic methodology for reviving indigenous knowledge systems, sacred natural sites and customary governance systems. A custodian meeting in Ethiopia led to a Custodian Statement with recommendations for the African Commission to recognise sacred natural sites and customary governance systems as part of Africa’s plural legal system.

Earth Jurisprudence precedents included the Urgenda case in the Netherlands requiring the government to protect future citizens from climate change; and Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris, France, parallel to the UN climate change negotiations, formally established by the Peoples’ Convention for the Establishment of the Rights of Nature Tribunal


Workshop on African Community Ecological Governance in South Africa facilitated by the Mupo Foundation, Gaia and ABN, to learn the process of reviving, practicing and securing legal recognition of customary governance systems based on Earth Law principles.

Workshops in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Benin and Ghana, which continue annually, on customary governance systems based on Earth Jurisprudence principles, and developing strategies for their legal recognition.

Earth Jurisprudence precedents included the World Wilderness Congress Resolution 6: Advancing Nature Rights Worldwide, 11: Recognising Networks of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and 12: Building a Global Alliance to assert ‘No-Go Areas’ for Mining and other Extractive Industries and destructive activities; and Falkirk Community Charter calling for recognition of cultural heritage in UK planning systems.


100th birthday of Thomas Berry. Earth Jurisprudence advocates and practitioners around the world reaffirm their commitment to practice the Great Work of reconnecting with, nurturing and defending Mother Earth and the wider Earth Community of which we are part of.

Earth Rights ‘Days of Action’, organised by the Global Alliance and advocates around the world, to celebrate and protect the Rights of Nature.

Earth Jurisprudence Training Course launched in South Africa, facilitated by the Mupo/EarthLore Foundation, South African lawyer and Gaia, with community leaders in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Benin, South Africa and Ghana, on Earth Jurisprudence practice and methodologies.

African custodian meeting in Uganda, organised by the National Association for Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and Gaia, to develop strategies to defend sacred natural sites from threats such as mining. Joint Report on the Impacts of Mining on Water, Food Sovereignty and Sacred Natural Sites calls for the recognition of customary governance systems rooted in Earth Jurisprudence principles.

Earth Law precedents included a Rights of Nature court case, local ordinances, and mock Rights of Nature trial in the U.S.; European Citizen’s initiative, and Ethics Tribunal for the Rights of Nature in Ecuador and Peru organised by the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature with regional tribunals in the U.S. and in Australia.


Community workshop in Kenya, organised by ICE, ABN and Gaia, led to the Statement of the Common African Customary Laws for the Protection of Sacred Natural Sites

Report Recognising Sacred Natural Sites and Territories in Kenya’ developed by ICE, Gaia and ABN, called for stronger recognition of customary governance systems based on Earth’s Law.

Earth Jurisprudence lectures in the UK, facilitated by Ian Mason (Principal of School of Economics Science), with speakers including Gaia.

Earth Law precedents included the Sacred Forest Law in Benin, application for registration of a network of Sacred Natural Sites in South Africa, the IUCN Recommendation on Sacred Natural Sites and a Resolution on the incorporation of the Rights of Nature in IUCN decision making; recognition of a river’s rights in New Zealand, and mock Ecocide Trial Sentencing.


Launch of book ‘Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence in Australia and the UK, with essays from Earth Jurisprudence practitioners from around the world, including the ABN and Gaia, edited by Peter Burdon.

Community workshop in Kenya on eco-cultural mapping hosted by ICE, ABN and Gaia to revive traditional knowledge and customary governance systems based on Earth Jurisprudence principles for the protection of sacred natural sites and territories.

Earth Law Precedents included proposal for a Declaration on Planetary Boundaries, Law of the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia, Rights of River case in Ecuador, and mock Ecocide trial in the UK.


Formation of groups and networks including the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, established at an International Gathering for Rights of Nature in Ecuador, Wild Law UK and an Alliance for Future generations in the UK, and the now Australian Earth Laws Alliance.

Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law Workshops – the Gaia Foundation speaks on Earth Jurisprudence in schools, universities, communities and in other fora in the UK annually.

Earth Jurisprudence precedents included the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, proposal for a United Nations’ Crime of Ecocide, registration of a community’s intangible cultural heritage in Colombia, and court cases defending the Rights of the Gulf of Mexico, and sacred natural sites in South Africa.


Launch of Wild Law Report Is there any evidence of Earth Jurisprudence in existing law and practice?” developed by Gaia and UKELA.

International Earth Jurisprudence Retreat, organised by Schumacher College and Gaia, with practitioners from around the world distilled common principles and practices. The term ‘Earth Law’, in addition to Earth Jurisprudence, was agreed on to reflect that Earth is the source of law.

Exploration of applying Community Ecological Governance in the UK with the Scottish Crofters Foundation, fishing communities in Ireland, Gaia and Anders Tivell (Sweden).

1st Earth Jurisprudence Conference in Australia, inspired by UK conferences, organised by Australian universities, groups and UKELA. Conferences continue annually.

An eco-cultural mapping workshop, organised by communities in Venda, South Africa, with support from the Mupo Foundation, Gaia and Gaia Amazonas, facilitated the revival of traditional knowledge, practices and customary laws based on Earth Law principles.


First Earth Jurisprudence course in the UK by Schumacher College and Gaia.  Workshops took place annually until 2010 with participants from Africa, South America, Europe, U.S and elsewhere.

Ecuador became the 1st country in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature in its Constitution.


The Centre for Earth Jurisprudence established in the U.S. and developed an Earth Jurisprudence syllabus.

Earth Jurisprudence Learning Centre developed by Gaia, for the wider Earth Jurisprudence Network, to track and promote principles, initiatives, precedents, publications and training materials. Gaia and ELF also explored the potential practice of Earth Jurisprudence in the UK with communities along the River Thames.

Earth Jurisprudence precedents established included recognition of principles in the Kenyan Constitution (advocated by ICE, Porini, Wangari Maathai, N’gang’a Thiong’o with support from Cormac Cullinan and Gaia). See Earth Law Precedents for further examples.


Gaia’s Learning Centre continues to host Earth Jurisprudence talks and workshops annually in the UK, with practitioners including Nnimmo Bassey (Friends of the Earth, Nigeria), Gathuru Mburu (ABN), Vandana Shiva (Navdanya, India), Martin von Hildebrand (Gaia Amazonas, Colombia), Polly Higgins and Ian Mason (UK barristers), Jules Cashford (mythologist).

Legal recognition of Earth Jurisprudence in a local law in Tamaqua, U.S., with support from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.


The Community Ecological Governance (CEG) Global Alliance formed at the Haartbesportsdam meeting, South Africa and developed the Hartbeesport Principles.  The Alliance visited communities in Venda, South Africa who are practicing traditional customs embedded in Earth Jurisprudence principles.

Earth Jurisprudence course in Ghana, led by Bakari Nyari in the University of Development Studies.

Exploration of Earth Jurisprudence and CEG methodologies in Sweden, facilitated by Anders Tivell and Gaia, with a fishing community to revive their traditional Earth-centred customs.

1st Wild Law Conference in the UK, hosted by UKELA, Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), and Gaia.  Annual workshops continued until 2013, exploring strategies for securing legal recognition of Earth Jurisprudence principles, and led to initiatives including publications and working groups.


The Botswana experience in Ngwenyama lodgefacilitated by traditional healers, Colin and Niall Campbell, encouraged the ABN to remember their Earth rooted African heritage, and strengthened their work with communities for the revival and practice of Earth Jurisprudence. This process led to the Botswana Principles of Earth Jurisprudence and a film A Story Worth Remembering.

Colombia- Africa intercultural exchange, facilitated by Gaia and Gaia Amazonas, emabled ABN leaders to learn how Amazon indigenous people had revived their traditional ecological knowledge and secured legal recognition of their customary governance systems of sacred territories. This inspired the formation of local organisations in Africa to revive customary governance systems rooted in Earth Jurisprudence, such as the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) and Porini Association in Kenya, MELCA in Ethiopia, and Mupo Foundation in South Africa.

Earth Jurisprudence course in Ethiopia, led by Mellese Damtie from the Ethiopian Civil Service Training College, encouraged policy makers to return to their community and learn their Earth-centred customary laws.

Earth Jurisprudence study groups emerged in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana and UK.

Conference on Wild Law in Scotland by the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA).


The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) formed, and developed a Community Ecological Governance approach to revive and practice community governance systems based on Earth’s laws.

Earth Governance Colloquium convened by Gaia and EnAct International in Kwazulu-Natal led to the Valley of 1000 Hills Declaration.

Cormac Cullinan wrote the book ‘Wild Law’ calling for law to embed Earth Jurisprudence principles, including the Rights of Nature.

The Peoples’ Earth Summit organised by Gaia, parallel to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, launched Cullinan’s Wild Law book.


The May Summit, organised by Gaia, drew together an international group working on community ecological governance, to reflect Berry’s articulation of Earth Jurisprudence.

The Earth Community Network established, linking intercultural learning centres, including the Greenbelt Movement (Kenya), Fundacio Gaia (Brazil), Gaia Amazonas (Colombia), Navdanya (India) and Ngwenyama (Botswana).


1st Earth Jurisprudence meeting at Arlie House, Washington, U.S. organised by Gaia, Thomas Berry and Andrew Kimbrell (U.S. lawyer) to discuss Berry’s understanding of Earth Jurisprudence and distil founding Principles of Earth Jurisprudence – known as the Airlie Principles.

Earth Jurisprudence and Wilderness’ workshop, organised by Gaia, at the 7th World Wilderness Congress in South Africa, deepened the exploration of Earth Jurisprudence.


Thomas Berry published The Great Work’ calling for a radical re-envisioning of governance systems, particularly laws, education, economy and religion, from human-centred to Earth-centred, for the wellbeing of the whole Earth Community. This philosophy became known as Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) and draws inspiration from Earth herself and the wisdom and practices of indigenous peoples. Gaia visited Berry in the U.S. to explore these ideas further.

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