The register of human rights law has become central to press governments into action against ecological catastrophes symptomatic of the Anthropocene, including climate change. This approach bears much rhetorical traction and litigating potential, as evidenced in recent transnational climate cases that strategically broadened the scope of who can be considered legally affected by climate change, where and how. Yet, the deployment of rights-based approaches also entails significant limitations in how we can perceive, account for, and address climate harms. These limits are reflected in how rights and obligations are materially, subjectively, spatially, and temporally defined and delineated. While progressive legal actions are pushing these boundaries by shifting from actual to potential harms, from human to nonhuman rights, from territorial to extraterritorial obligations, and from presentist to intergenerational justice, these developments tend to remain committed to and constrained by liberal underpinnings that limit our legal and political struggles for climate justice.
The talk ties together insights from post-humanism, new materialism, and critical race theory to draw out four pressure points on which legal thought and practice can be pushed further: from potential to entangled harms, from nonhuman to more-than-human victims, from extraterritorial to terrestrial space, from intergenerational to enduring temporalities. This intervention – which I describe through the concept of 'Anthropocene Legalities' – aims to inspire and energize new strategies for reparative legal design for more-than-human worlds.