Earth Jurisprudence and Lockean Theory

Abstract by Traci Lynne Timmons

Thomas Berry, father of the Earth Jurisprudence movement, called for re-examining human-Earth relations. Earth Jurisprudence aspires to promote a greater respect for nature and all living things on Earth, aiming to intertwine Earth’s natural law with the body of law that governs humanity. This paper explores Earth Jurisprudence as an alternative to the property regime in the United States. It examines the fundamental principles of property ownership, frequently attributed to the philosophy of John Locke, but digs deeper into these “Lockean” roots to reveal important caveats to Locke’s general principles which have been overlooked in modern times. This paper also applies the influential philosophy of Locke to the budding legal field of Earth Jurisprudence, and to the ever-expanding science that is the study of the Earth and its being.

Specifically, this paper addresses the philosophy of John Locke and how it has contributed to our overly anthropocentric (human-centered) views of nature as a commodity or resource for human use. When the Founding Fathers contemplated the values for which the United States would stand, an important part of Locke’s theory was ignored—the Framers ignored the proviso that one must leave “enough and as good for others.” Once Locke’s theories are more fully understood and thoughtfully applied, they are actually consistent with the principles of Earth Jurisprudence. This paper takes a fresh look at Lockean theory, and uncovers a more symbiotic or mutualistic relationship for humans and nature in the human-Earth balance.