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Of Kin and System: Rights of Nature and the UN Search for Earth Jurisprudence

Schmidt, Jeremy J.

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Since 2009, the United Nations programme on Harmony with Nature has sought a new philosophy of global environmental governance known as Earth jurisprudence. This paper examines how Harmony with Nature has advanced Earth jurisprudence to unite Indigenous legal traditions, rights of nature, and mounting evidence from Earth system science regarding anthropogenic forcing on the planet. It does so through a policy analysis of annual UN reports, resolutions, and dialogues with international experts. Situating Harmony with Nature in the broader intellectual heritage of Earth jurisprudence and contemporary efforts to address anthropogenic forcing on the Earth system in the Anthropocene, I argue that Harmony with Nature operates at the juncture of two powerful ways of ordering relations, knowledge, and obligation: kin and system. The critical analysis shows how a new geography of global environmental governance has been produced within the constraints of the UN precisely by scaling Indigenous kinship to the planetary diagnoses made by system-based planetary sciences. The resulting form of Earth jurisprudence in Harmony with Nature holds important, cautionary lessons both for understanding how Indigenous legal traditions are made to comport with UN sustainable development programmes and for contemporary efforts to transform governance to meet the pressing demands of global environmental change.


Schmidt, J. J. (2022). Of Kin and System: Rights of Nature and the UN Search for Earth Jurisprudence. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 10, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 29, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2022
Publicly Available Date Apr 6, 2022
Journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Print ISSN 0020-2754
Electronic ISSN 1475-5661
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed


Published Journal Article (868 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
&copy; 2022 The Authors. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers published by John Wiley &amp; Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers).<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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