Ecological Civilization Open Access

ISSN: 2957-4455 (Online)

2957-4447 (Print)

Ecological Civilization aims to be an international, peer-reviewed and open access journal that publishes theoretical, empirical, conceptual, and experimental studies in all aspects of ecological civilization.

 

Editors-in-Chief

Articles (15) All articles

Article

23 May 2024

Proposal for A Systemic Human Ecological Turn for Health Science and Medicine

Industrial development processes, accompanied by extreme growth processes, regards world population, pollution, food production and the exploitation of natural resources have caused severe ecological problems. This has been well known since 1972 through the study ‘The Limits to Growth’, in which humanity and the world society was called upon to make an ecological turn and to change its consumption model and the type of economic development that was not suited to finite natural resources (or a finite planet). However, the relationships between the state of the environment and human health have hardly been considered, although an ecological view of health was already proposed by Hippocrates, and as in the meantime, the technical terms “Environmental Health” and “Environmental Medicine” have become established at universities. It is only in recent times that global terms such as climate medicine, One Health, Eco Health, etc. have become powerful pragmatic and action-oriented initiatives. They can be understood as calls for a worldwide health-related ‘ecologization’ of (health) culture. Regarding these approaches we highlight theoretical and metatheoretical aspects, since in general, any real action is only as good as the analytical quality of the plan that serves as a guide for that action. From this point of view, we find that these approaches exhibit striking weaknesses. These are, among other things: the neglect of epistemological challenges combined with inconsistent conceptualizations of the category environment, the very superficial models of human beings, weaknesses of ecological frameworks in relation to the macro-, meso- and micro-eco-social levels of the targeted topics, and a vague notion of systems methodology. Following on from this, we call for an explicit social-/human-ecological framework (New Viennese School, Australian School) for environmental health issues as it has been established for decades in the field of environmental, sustainability and transformation sciences.

Article

22 April 2024

Construction of a Comprehensive International Legal Protection Mechanism for Climate Refugees

Climate refugee has become an unavoidable major right crisis challenge for the international community. However, the corresponding development of positive international law is obviously imperfect. The basic rights of climate refugees cannot be fully guaranteed by international law. They are always facing problems such as unclear legal status lack of protection of basic rights, and imperfect relief mechanism. Those vulnerable groups who lack resources and migration abilities suffer more serious rights violations because they are forced to stay in place. Compared with the risk-management framework and right-protection framework, the comprehensive international legal protection mechanism is the inevitable choice for climate refugees’ rights relief in the post-2012 period. The rights of climate refugees set out in the preamble of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants in 2016, the Global Refugee Compact in 2018, and the Global Compact for Security, Order and Regular Migration formally incorporated the issues of refugees and migrants caused by climate change, laying the foundation for this choice. However, it is a long and difficult way to build a perfect comprehensive international response to climate change. It is not only necessary to realize the integration of human rights law and climate law at the conceptual level, but also to integrate the different perspectives of the two laws and build a set of scientific and reasonable cooperation mechanism.

Article

15 April 2024

Impacts on the Legal Framework for Protecting Environmental and Human Rights in Brazil due to Ideological Antagonism: The Interrelated Cases of the Yanomami and the Amazon Fund

The occupation of the Amazon is driven by capitalist production, impacting climate change discussions. Despite constitutional protections since 1934, the influx of non-Indigenous settlers, particularly miners, led to significant conflicts. The Yanomami sought international recourse through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In the context of redemocratization, the 1988 Constitution marked a shift, reinforcing Indigenous rights and environmental protection. Brazil’s role in protecting the rainforest intersects with global climate efforts, including the REDD+ mechanism. The creation of the Amazon Fund in 2008, aligned with REDD+ initiatives, involved international cooperation and local governance, leading to a substantial decline in Amazon deforestation between 2004 and 2012. However, exploitative practices endorsed by the State pose threats to environmental and human rights, notably affecting indigenous communities. Amid Brazil’s democracy crisis, deforestation surged in the Amazon from 2013–2022 and the Yanomami face conflicts fueled by State support for non-Indigenous groups. The Yanomami sought international recourse through the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. These issues are intensified by an ideological bias, linked to authoritarian populism rooted in the legacy of the Dictatorship. Recent initiatives aim to enhance environmental and human rights protection. However, political instability poses challenges for the future.

Review

02 April 2024

Mapping the (in)Effective Enforcement of EU Environmental Law in Greece: Lessons from the EU and Domestic Courts

The effective implementation and enforcement of EU environmental law at national level constitutes a thorny issue with both legal and practical aspects. Greece is among the EU Member States which has historically faced difficulties in complying with the EU environmental acquis due to the poor functioning of the Greek administration, the limited manpower, expertise and resources (especially during the recent period of the economic crisis) for the competent authorities, the lack of political will, the low awareness of environmental problems. In this context, this paper aspires to unpack these enforcement challenges at the national level based on the case law of both the Greek Council of State and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Considering that waste management, nature protection, and water and air quality sectors are recognized as areas with the most significant deficiencies in implementation at the domestic level, the analysis will focus on these four key sectors.  To this end, by reviewing the relevant EU and Greek jurisprudence, this paper aspires to identify the disparities between the formal requirements and the practical application of EU environmental regulations in Greece in light of the national political, economic, social, and cultural dynamics. 

Review

01 April 2024

Desperately Seeking Sustainable Human Well-Being: A Review of Indicators, Concepts, and Methods

Evaluating progress in human development and well-being is imperative for policymakers to assess the impact of their policies. Traditional measurement methods focus mostly on economic growth and socio-economic objectives, often neglecting vital components of the natural environment, particularly the ecological determinants essential for the sustainability of human well-being. The tension between sustainability and development becomes apparent as the recognition of the dependence of human well-being on the natural environment and ecosystem services is crucial for safeguarding the environment for present and future generations. This highlights the necessity for indicators that capture the intricate relationship between human well-being and environmental changes while addressing the challenges posed by the tension between sustainable practices and traditional development models. This paper presents a literature review examining the domains, dimensions, and indicators related to the sustainability of human well-being regarding economic, social, and natural environments. Emphasizing the multidimensional nature, this paper highlights the drawbacks of relying solely on socioeconomic indicators for assessment. The review explores diverse concepts and methodologies proposed to evaluate the components and multidimensional factors influencing the sustainability of human well-being. Ultimately it offers a holistic understanding serving as a foundation for further research and policy development.

Article

25 March 2024

Discussion on the Marine Protected Area on the High Seas: From the Perspective of Obligations Erga Omnes Partes

The BBNJ Agreement promotes the conservation and sustainable use of high seas marine biodiversity through the establishment of high seas protected areas. The high seas biodiversity protected by the Agreement has the nature of “obligations erga omnes partes” on an ex officio basis, but in judicial practice it is subject to a finding by the International Court of Justice that the adoption of treaty-based institutional arrangements is in the “collective interest” and that it is in the “collective interest” to adopt such arrangements. The BBNJ Agreement is currently not a “collective interest” agreement in terms of the management of the BBNJ Agreement. At present, the hybrid management model adopted in the BBNJ Agreement does not reflect the collective interest in substance, and cannot resolve the conflict between the establishment of protected areas on the high seas and other area-based management tools, so it is necessary to further harmonize the relationship between the Conference of Parties to the BBNJ and the IFB, and to strengthen the mandate of the COP.

Perspective

04 March 2024

Trees—Protectors against a Changing Climate

There are estimated to be about 3 trillion trees on Earth, or about half the number that existed before the dawn of human civilization. Trees are vital to at least four major biogeochemical cycles, namely, the carbon, water, nitrogen and oxygen cycles. In addition to absorbing carbon, and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, trees are critical for maintaining biodiversity, providing habitat for 80% of land based wildlife, feeding the soil, generating clouds and increasing albedo (thus causing global cooling), influencing rainfall and weather patterns. The loss of trees, therefore, weakens our chances of reaching climate and biodiversity targets, and so proforestation and other practices to stringently preserve the functionality of and holistically restore forest ecosystems, must be adopted as a matter of urgency, paying due attention to soil, and species diversity including mycorrhizae; not being limited to insouciant “tree planting” solutions. Indeed, due to the tardiness of our actions to repair the Earth and its climate, severe restrictions to the cutting of mature trees must actually be enabled globally. However, this alone is not enough, and must be integrated with other forms of land, wetland, grassland and agricultural protection and restoration. Such Nature Based Solutions could provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed by 2030 to keep within the 2 °C global heating limit. Nonetheless, it is also critical to curb greenhouse gas emissions at source, not only by implementing low-carbon, renewable energy, but also energy demand reduction strategies, such as insulating buildings, societal relocalisation, and local food growing.

Article

18 February 2024

The Sustainable Development Concept in the Polish Legal Space from a Legal-Dogmatic Perspective

The sustainable development concept is of crucial importance for the socioeconomic development processes, not only at the international community level, but also—or, perhaps, particularly—at the national or even local levels. The aim of the article is to demonstrate, from a legal-dogmatic perspective, the place, role and significance of the sustainable development concept in the Polish legal space. This perspective applies to both the state policy intended to formulate a strategy which provides a basis for law-making processes and to find normative solutions making it possible to reconcile legally protected values which sometimes compete with one another, with account taken of the needs of future generations. The sustainable development concept has been very broadly followed in Poland not only in the legal doctrine, but also in the doctrine of economic and social sciences. This term has turned out to be such an effective political catchword that it has been commonly abused and, therefore, it has lost a good deal of its social importance; this makes it substantially more difficult to apply a normative approach to the issues related to the implementation of the concept in legislative practice. In the Polish legal space, the sustainable development concept has become the leading theme of many documents and legal acts, particularly those concerned with environmental protection, but also, although to a much more modest extent, those addressing the issues of socioeconomic development.

Perspective

26 December 2023

Article

15 December 2023

The Role of Liability Regime in Addressing Historical Contaminated Land Problems: A Comparative Perspective from England and China

This article conducts a comparative analysis of contaminated land regimes in China and England, focusing on their development, liability attribution, key principles, administrative nature, and financial guarantees. Both regimes are risk-based and are supported by the Polluter Pays Principle and the Stewardship Principle. They have similar liability arrangements: attributing the liability firstly to the polluter and then to landowners/occupiers or the usufructuaries. Administrative authorities under both regimes hold pivotal roles in remediating land on certain occasions. However, the cost recovery mechanisms vary due to the different constitutional roles among enforcing authorities, courts, and liable parties in the two countries. Both regimes impose retrospective liability, yet England provides detailed rules regarding the hardship provision and exclusion tests, preventing the unfair allocation of liability more effectively. Experience from England highlights the limited role of legal regimes in managing historical pollution, emphasising the need for supplementary mechanisms. This is why financial support is critical for effective land remediation in both countries. 

Article

11 May 2023

Roots of (and Solutions to) our Ecological Crisis. A Humanistic Perspective

Research into the sources of contemporary ecological crisis as well as ways to overcome it has been conducted for several decades. Rich academic literature provides numerous attempts to identify the causes of the crisis and its solutions. The ecological crisis is extremely complex and variously conditioned. Therefore, I focus on determining only two sources of the crisis and, respectively, two solutions. Since the late 1960s, monotheistic religions, Christianity in particular, have been made responsible for the environmental crisis. Christianity is accused of forwarding two theses which are harmful to the environment: 1. The sole purpose of nature is to serve man. 2. By God’s will, man is endowed with unlimited power over nature. I attempt to overcome this understanding of the source of the crisis by showing the interpretation of the Bible which contradicts the above-mentioned theses. Moreover, I show “the ecological potential” of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions. As the second source of the crisis I indicate modern thought: 1. Man’s alienation from nature as the result of the Cartesian division of reality into res cogitans and res extensa. 2. Francis Bacon’s program: the study of nature is the task of natural sciences alone; nature is devoid of value in itself. 3. The mathematization of nature made it possible for the natural and technical sciences to develop rapidly, which contributed to the industrial revolution. I look for an antidote to this cause of the crisis in Klaus M. Meyer-Abich’s idea of man’s peace with nature which he developed as part of the practical philosophy of nature. I believe that revealing our inseparable bond with nature and showing compassion towards nature may help overcome the destructive consequences of modern thought. 

RyszardF.SADOWSKI

Article

22 May 2023

Private Property and Public Commons: Narrowing the gap

Private property and public commons each represent strongly felt concepts of society but in very different ways. While the protection of private property is at the heart of the capitalist system and deeply embedded in our laws, the protection of the public commons is a mere subset of government policies and often lacks firm regulations. Critically, natural commons such as air, water, biodiversity, and a habitable earth, are hardly protected at all. Environmental laws regulate use and protection of natural “resources” in a strict instrumental fashion, ignoring the intrinsic value of Nature and take Earth’s ecological systems for granted. This article traces the “hidden logic” of environmental law and explores some of the history of property and the commons in the European context. It then shows the fundamental importance of ecological integrity for all efforts towards sustainable societies. The overall thesis is that property and commons must be based on ecological sustainability as a fundamental norm of law.

Klaus Bosselmann

Article

01 September 2023

The Priority of Nature-based over Engineered Negative Emission Technologies: Locating BECCS and DACCS within the Hierarchy of International Climate Law

Drastically reducing emissions is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s (PA) goal of keeping global temperature well below 2 °C, ideally at 1.5 °C. With regard to residual emissions, however, a demand for negative emission technologies (NETs), also known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR), remains. NETs are particularly necessary to reach net-zero goals by offsetting emissions in hard-to-abate sectors. This article examines the distinction between “engineered” and “nature-based” removals from the perspective of international climate change law. To that end, the relevant legal norms in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol (KP), and the PA are interpreted—with a particular emphasis on two engineered removals: bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). We posit that the three treaties establish a normative hierarchy that is more favorable towards so-called nature-based removals and less favorable to engineered removals (and even more favorable towards emission reductions).

PhilippGünther
FelixEkardt

Editorial

28 July 2023

Article

30 November 2023

From Olive Branch to Olive Tree—Global Green Demilitarization and Ecological Civilization

In 2007, a report to the 17th National People’s Congress in Beijing introduced the concept of Ecological Civilization (EC) (Shēngtài Wénmíng 生态文明) to the official lexicon of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). With origins in the state discourse of the Soviet Union of the 1980s, the term gained new forms of traction in China and abroad as it drew from ecological Marxism, constructive postmodernism, and process philosophy to propose a new technic of statecraft and international cooperation for the development of long-term, global ecological justice and sustainability. In 2012, the constitution of the People’s Republic of China enshrined the goals of EC as a primary national objective, promulgating specific policies on environmental management, green technology, and ideological development. Although some critics view EC discourse as the epitome of authoritarian environmentalism, others cite the PRC’s remarkable strides in developing green technologies and assuming leadership in international treaty negotiations, such as the COP 15, as evidence that the CCP is taking on a new role in global environmental leadership. Beyond the immediate concerns of EC’s performative dimensions, rigorous analysis of EC as a discursive political strategy is critical for understanding its potential for opening spaces of unprecedented international cooperation on planetary environmental governance. While skepticism is in order, facile reductions of the scope of Shēngtài Wénmíng discourse to mere propaganda designed to disguise authoritarian environmentalism marks a dangerous foreclosure on what could very well emerge as a workable vision of international cooperation to solve ecological and social crises arising from the global climate emergency, the Sixth Mass Extinction, and severe regional disparities in resource access. Strong EC theory and practice ascribe transcendent value to the earth’s biogeochemical systems as the very oikos (οίκος)—the ecological home within which human economy and infrastructure engage with more-than-human forces constitutive of “nature” to co-create our shared terrestrial world. Within this highly variegated terrestrial ecology, with its multiplicity of biomes, human and more-than-human potentials can be realized for mutual benefit—the essential condition for sustainability. Given these considerations, to dismiss PE discourse in summary fashion constitutes a grave mistake and an act of bad faith. This analysis reconceptualizes the oikos as deeply similar to the East Asian philosophical concept of Tiānxià (天下) and, concomitantly, equates the Western conception of cosmos (σύμπαν) with the Daoist and Confucian concept of (Tiān天).This vision of wealth and common property embodied in the global biospheric commons grounds, reproduces, and inflects the human terrestrial condition. The mechanism for achieving global EC involves the overcoming of the fundamental contradictions between classical paradigms of industrial development and emerging conceptions of ecological resilience, by fast-tracking ecological development at all terrestrial scales on a foundation of unprecedented international cooperation and social justice. This includes the treatment of scarce mineral resources, which are required to meet the growing global demand for green technologies and mitigate the disastrous effects of global climate change, as common pool resources. EC comprises a radical and crucial reconfiguration of geopolitical theory and practice based on a new ecological ethics for the Anthropocene Epoch. This readjustment of international relations to meet actually existing global crises cannot be realized without a concomitant and symmetrical system of demilitarization based on the transfer of resources, materiel, personnel, expertise, and security policy out of the global military-industrial complex, which centers on monocentric geographic realms (East Asia, North America, the EU, South Asia, and Russia) and a series of shifting alliances the G-7, NATO, the UN. The United States and China currently enjoy an unprecedented degree of prominence and agency on the world stage. They must, for that very reason, play leading roles in global demilitarization. The most effective means of insuring multilateral involvement in this process, and the protocol with the largest peace dividends, is called Global Green Demilitarization. This article provides the philosophical, ethical, and political groundwork to replace destructive practices of resource competition with diplomatic processes leading to international, multilateral, and global Ecological Civilization. The road will be long and perhaps the way will be arduous, but the rewards will exceed the difficulties, consisting, as they will, of a thriving planet and a dynamic, peaceful, and equitable civilization in the 21st century and for the remainder of the third millennium.

ChristopherCoggins

Perspective

26 December 2023

Article

15 December 2023

The Role of Liability Regime in Addressing Historical Contaminated Land Problems: A Comparative Perspective from England and China

This article conducts a comparative analysis of contaminated land regimes in China and England, focusing on their development, liability attribution, key principles, administrative nature, and financial guarantees. Both regimes are risk-based and are supported by the Polluter Pays Principle and the Stewardship Principle. They have similar liability arrangements: attributing the liability firstly to the polluter and then to landowners/occupiers or the usufructuaries. Administrative authorities under both regimes hold pivotal roles in remediating land on certain occasions. However, the cost recovery mechanisms vary due to the different constitutional roles among enforcing authorities, courts, and liable parties in the two countries. Both regimes impose retrospective liability, yet England provides detailed rules regarding the hardship provision and exclusion tests, preventing the unfair allocation of liability more effectively. Experience from England highlights the limited role of legal regimes in managing historical pollution, emphasising the need for supplementary mechanisms. This is why financial support is critical for effective land remediation in both countries. 

Mengyu Cui
Mengxing Lu

Article

18 February 2024

The Sustainable Development Concept in the Polish Legal Space from a Legal-Dogmatic Perspective

The sustainable development concept is of crucial importance for the socioeconomic development processes, not only at the international community level, but also—or, perhaps, particularly—at the national or even local levels. The aim of the article is to demonstrate, from a legal-dogmatic perspective, the place, role and significance of the sustainable development concept in the Polish legal space. This perspective applies to both the state policy intended to formulate a strategy which provides a basis for law-making processes and to find normative solutions making it possible to reconcile legally protected values which sometimes compete with one another, with account taken of the needs of future generations. The sustainable development concept has been very broadly followed in Poland not only in the legal doctrine, but also in the doctrine of economic and social sciences. This term has turned out to be such an effective political catchword that it has been commonly abused and, therefore, it has lost a good deal of its social importance; this makes it substantially more difficult to apply a normative approach to the issues related to the implementation of the concept in legislative practice. In the Polish legal space, the sustainable development concept has become the leading theme of many documents and legal acts, particularly those concerned with environmental protection, but also, although to a much more modest extent, those addressing the issues of socioeconomic development.

Maria Magdalena Kenig-Witkowska

Perspective

04 March 2024

Trees—Protectors against a Changing Climate

There are estimated to be about 3 trillion trees on Earth, or about half the number that existed before the dawn of human civilization. Trees are vital to at least four major biogeochemical cycles, namely, the carbon, water, nitrogen and oxygen cycles. In addition to absorbing carbon, and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, trees are critical for maintaining biodiversity, providing habitat for 80% of land based wildlife, feeding the soil, generating clouds and increasing albedo (thus causing global cooling), influencing rainfall and weather patterns. The loss of trees, therefore, weakens our chances of reaching climate and biodiversity targets, and so proforestation and other practices to stringently preserve the functionality of and holistically restore forest ecosystems, must be adopted as a matter of urgency, paying due attention to soil, and species diversity including mycorrhizae; not being limited to insouciant “tree planting” solutions. Indeed, due to the tardiness of our actions to repair the Earth and its climate, severe restrictions to the cutting of mature trees must actually be enabled globally. However, this alone is not enough, and must be integrated with other forms of land, wetland, grassland and agricultural protection and restoration. Such Nature Based Solutions could provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed by 2030 to keep within the 2 °C global heating limit. Nonetheless, it is also critical to curb greenhouse gas emissions at source, not only by implementing low-carbon, renewable energy, but also energy demand reduction strategies, such as insulating buildings, societal relocalisation, and local food growing.

ChristopherJ.Rhodes

Review

02 April 2024

Mapping the (in)Effective Enforcement of EU Environmental Law in Greece: Lessons from the EU and Domestic Courts

The effective implementation and enforcement of EU environmental law at national level constitutes a thorny issue with both legal and practical aspects. Greece is among the EU Member States which has historically faced difficulties in complying with the EU environmental acquis due to the poor functioning of the Greek administration, the limited manpower, expertise and resources (especially during the recent period of the economic crisis) for the competent authorities, the lack of political will, the low awareness of environmental problems. In this context, this paper aspires to unpack these enforcement challenges at the national level based on the case law of both the Greek Council of State and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Considering that waste management, nature protection, and water and air quality sectors are recognized as areas with the most significant deficiencies in implementation at the domestic level, the analysis will focus on these four key sectors.  To this end, by reviewing the relevant EU and Greek jurisprudence, this paper aspires to identify the disparities between the formal requirements and the practical application of EU environmental regulations in Greece in light of the national political, economic, social, and cultural dynamics. 

KleonikiPouikli
Ariti Tsoukala
IfigeneiaTsakalogianni

Topic Collection

Regenerative Agriculture: A Pathway to Sustainable Ecological Civilization

Comparative Environmental Law

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