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Living in relationship with the Ocean to transform governance in the UN Ocean Decade

Bender M, Bustamante R, Leonard K (2022) Living in relationship with the Ocean to transform governance in the UN Ocean Decade. PLoS Biol 20(10): e3001828. “Humanity’s relationship with the Ocean needs to be transformed to effectively address the multitude of governance crises facing the Ocean, including overfishing, climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. Earth law, including Rights of Nature, provides a pathway to center humanity as a part of Nature and transform our relationship from one of dominion and separateness towards holism and mutual enhancement. Within the Earth law framework, an Ocean-centered approach views humanity as interconnected with the Ocean, recognizes societies’ collective duty and reciprocal responsibility to protect and conserve the Ocean, and puts aside short-term gain to respect and protect future generations of all life and the Ocean’s capacity to regenerate and sustain natural cycles.

This Essay presents Ocean-centered governance as an approach to help achieve the 10 challenges for collective impact put forward as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and therefore living in a harmonious relationship with the Ocean….In this Essay, we offer Earth law as a framework that can act as a catalyst to transform humanity’s relationship with Nature and ensure science and sustainable development expand beyond a utilitarian dimension. Earth law is a philosophy of law based upon “the interdependence among humans and the environment” and guided by principles of holism, mutual enhancement, and reciprocal responsibilities, among others. Earth law promotes a greater respect for all living things on Earth by recognizing that nonhumans have inherent rights and value, merely by existing. This connection with Earth is restored vis-à-vis the holistic reconceptualization, adaptability, and flexibility of human ethics, institutions, and laws. Rights of Nature is one legal framework within the body of Earth law. As evidenced by global comparative studies, Rights of Nature recognizes Nature as a living being with inherent rights and that society has a right to defend and protect Nature. Therefore, the emerging Rights of Nature movement seeks to illustrate Nature as valued for itself (intrinsic value), no longer viewed as an object or property, but as a subject with rights….”

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