Environmental Law’s Extinction Problem – online workshop

Long-nosed fur seals (pictured above) were hunted almost to extinction in the early 19th century. They have since recovered with a population of about 100,000 in South Australia.

Environmental Law’s Extinction Problem – online workshop

Organisers: Prof. Afshin Akhtar-Khavari, Dr Katie Woolaston, Dr Michelle Lim

QUT Faculty of Law and the Macquarie Law School will co-host this online event on extinction and the role and significance of law, norms, and institutions. This interdisciplinary workshop will encourage wide ranging reflection and re-imagining of both the context and specifics of environmental law relating to ideas of loss and the extinction of living things.

Abstract: Extinction raises fundamental questions for environmental law and legal studies. We have to address escalating harm within current timeframes while engineering institutional and governance structures to address impending catastrophe. In attempting to address these challenges, legal responses to extinction tend to oscillate between nostalgia and hubris. Nostalgia in terms of protecting and restoring wild places and species and returning them to a pre-human ‘natural state’ on the one hand; and hubris in thinking that we can invent nature or use technology to engineer de-extinction on the other.

Whilst environmental law can contribute to extinction it also has the potential to creatively mobilise and bring together ideas and forces for governance. The subject of extinction explicitly confronts law and governance with an opportunity to interrogate and challenge its foundations, structural dispositions and why and whether it has to worry about loss at all.

This workshop will interrogate and explore alternate imaginings of law, governance and ultimately new critical pathways and possibilities to challenge Environmental Law’s extinction problem. This online workshop brings together international speakers over four sessions, friendly to different times zone and will include a range of experts from around the world, including:

  • Glen Albrecht (University of Sydney)
  • Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University)
  • Andy Purvis (Natural History Museum, London)
  • Thom van Dooren (University of Sydney)
  • Lesley Hughes (Macquarie University)
  • Michelle Lim (Macquarie University)
  • Katie Woolaston (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (Cape Western Reserve University)
  • Erin O’Donnell (Melbourne University)
  • Paul Govind (Macquarie University)
  • Rob Amos (University College, London)
  • Werner Scholtz (University of the Western Cape)
  • Alexandra McEwan (Central Queensland University)
  • Charlotte Hunn (University of Tasmania)
  • Phillipa McCormack (University of Tasmania)
  • Afshin Akhtar-Khavari (Queensland University of Technology)

Workshop details

Dates and Times (AEST-BNE time): Thursday 3rd December (9.00am to 12.30pm and 6.00pm to 7.30pm) and Friday 4th December (9.00am to 10.30am and 6.00pm to 7.30pm) 2020
Venue: Online via Zoom
Cost: Free

Workshop program

Day one – Session one: 9am Brisbane/10am Sydney (1 hour 45 mins) – The Extinction Problem of Australian Laws and Governance

    • Welcome/intro (Session Chair: Prof. Afshin Akhtar-Khavari)
    • A conspiracy of inaction: the case of the Bramble Cay Melomys (Lesley Hughes – Macquarie University)
    • Apathy vs Compassion and the Banality of Legal Extinctions (Katie Woolaston/Afshin Akhtar-Khavari – Queensland University of Technology)
    • Creating a Culture of Learning: Applying Insights from Criminal Law to Species Extinctions (Phillipa McCormack/Charlotte Hunn – University of Tasmania)

Day one – Session two: 11:30am Brisbane/12:30pm Sydney (1 hour 30 mins) – Seeing Extinction

    • Session Chair: Paul Govind
    • The Unseen Extinction Crisis: Snail Stories from Hawai’i (Thom van Dooren – Sydney University)
    • Extinction: hidden in plain sight – Can stories of ‘the last’ unearth environmental law’s unspeakable truth? (Michelle Lim – Macquarie University)
    • Environmental Law’s Extinction Problem and the (Other) Virus (Alexandra McEwan – Central Queensland University)

Day one – Session three: 6pm Brisbane/7pm Sydney/10am South Africa/9am Western Europe/8am United Kingdom (1 hour 30 mins) – Interspecies Relationships

    • Session Chair: Dr Michelle Lim
    • ‘Ethical and Human Use’, Intrinsic Value and the Convention on Biological Diversity: Towards the Reconfiguration of Sustainable Development and Use (Werner Scholtz – Western Cape University)
    • Biodiversity and species extinction: categorization, calculation, and communication (Esther Turnhout – Wageningen University, Andy Purvis – Natural History Museum, London)
    • Finding Space for the Conservation of Trees in International Environmental Law (Rob Amos – University College London)

Day two – Session one: 9am Brisbane/10am Sydney (1 hour 30 mins) – Challenging western legal epistemologies & cosmology

    • Session Chair: Dr Katie Woolaston
    • Facing Mass Extinction, It Is Prudent to Decolonise Lands and Laws: A Philosophical Essay (Jeremy Bendik-Keymer – Cape Western Reserve University)
    • Rivers with no water: the existential threat facing law’s newest category of non-human persons (Erin O’Donnell – University of Melbourne)
    • From mastery to responsibility? How extinction exposes the epistemic crisis for environmental law (Paul Govind – Macquarie University)

Day two – Session two: 6pm Brisbane/7pm Sydney (1 hour 30 mins) – Challenging western legal epistemologies & cosmology (continued)

    • Session Chair: Dr Erin O’Donnell
    • The Extinction of Rights and the Extantion of Gheds (Glenn Albrecht – Sydney University)
    • The ‘nature’ of legal decision-making about extinction (Afshin Akhtar-Khavari/Katie Woolaston – Queensland University of Technology)
    • Thanks, next steps and close


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