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, https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12538