The ESGRREW investigates the conceptual framework and building blocks of international environmental law and governance: the human-nature relationship, the representations of the environment embedded within global cultures, and the establishment of environmental rights. Does this current framework allow the expression and representation of the various legal and cultural traditions, as well as effective environmental justice?  Can we establish a common or articulated understanding of the rights of the natural environment as the foundation of a more just, operative, and universally applicable form of earth system governance? This entails discussions about how the environment is represented in our cultures and polities and a reflection on the practical implications of its legal representation on the domestic and international levels.

Picture_ESGRREWThis is at heart a reflexive and pragmatic exercise, which intends to foster a dynamic of critical analysis and intercultural dialogue, with a problem solving approach. It will include empirical studies of legal texts and processes, and cultural surveys. Environmental ethics are part of the evolution of domestic and international environmental law, and this workgroup will strive to create a plan of action that involves the promotion of attendant necessities such as political will, enforcement mechanisms, widening participation, and sharing of responsibility. But, there are other obstacles related to enforcement, at the root of legal and political concepts – which, for instance, do not allow us to address effectively the rights of animals, rivers, oceans, forests or ecosystems, or to deal with the specificities of the relations between communities and their environment. This is a critical point from the perspective of Earth System Governance.

The way we conceive of and represent our environment determines our relation to it and the concepts used to deal with it. In that light, the legal and political tools designed to address the protection of the environment and human rights are based upon concepts and representations with ontological and epistemological foundations which demarcate and designate the known and inhabited world, as well as the (static, evolving, revolutionary) relationship between humankind and the environment. Sociologists, anthropologists, ethicists, and political theorists have highlighted the distinction between the environment as comprehended by science and the environment as it is conceived in a specific culture and legal system. Envisaging a sustainable Earth System Governance requires taking into account, reconciling and articulating those approaches, while maintaining respect for the diversity of worldviews across regions, religions, and communities.

ESGRREW Challenges

1) Identifying the human-nature relationships inherent in global cultures and their interplay with each other and the legal systems (including the international legal system) and other articulations of governance.

2) Addressing the governance gap, including the challenge of developing a general approach to environmental management (global/local) which recognizes that environmental values are cultural values that are constructed from a given perspective in space and time.

3) Working conceptually on a concurrent triscalar system: local rules, ecological community, global scale.

4) Addressing the implementation gap: the challenge of implementing international policies and norms; role of concepts/definitions of environmental objects/subjects and their rights within the triscalar framework.

The ESGRREW Themes

The working group focuses on the question of representations (scientific, legal, political, philosophical and cultural) of the environment and our relations to it, the impact of these conceptualizations on designing and implementing environmental policies, and ways we can move toward more commonly accepted understandings on a global scale. Some of the themes to be raised in specific webinars and workshops will include:

  • the evolution and critique of the concept of environment in relation to Earth System Governance;
  • the contribution of the various cultural and legal systems (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc.) to the understanding and designing of Earth System Governance;
  • the different social/cultural representations of the environment and the challenge/prospect of a global approach to climate change and sustainable development;
  • the multidisciplinary understanding of environment and the articulation of scientific methodologies/discourses with cultural and social sciences approaches/methodologies/discourses on the environment;
  • the designation and status of a variety of social and natural subjects of policies/regulations (animals, biological diversity, ecosystem, rivers, lakes, seas forests, etc.), and the implementation of international law, norms, and policies;
  • the notion of global interoperability of concepts/approaches of the environment, effectiveness/implementation of norms and policies.


Prof. Peter Stoett
Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, Concordia University, Montreal

Dr. Sandy Lamalle
Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, Concordia University, Montreal



Read More Here