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Talking Time, Sustainability and Environmental Law

8 Apr 2019 - 15:30

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Law was very fortunate to arrange for Prof Ben Richardson, from the University of Tasmania, to visit the University of Cape Town in April through an NRF Visiting Scholars Grant. Whilst in Cape Town, Prof Richardson met with members of the Institute and presented an open lecture titled ‘Time and sustainability: What is missing and what does environmental law need to do?’. Arranged in partnership with the Western Cape Branch of the Environmental Law Association, Professor Richardson explored how time is fundamentally important to sustainability and its governance. He argued that the upheavals of the Anthropocene including climate change reflect growing discrepancies between human and natural time scales; and that disciplined by industrial clock time, modern life distances people from nature’s biorhythms such as its ecological, evolutionary, and climatic processes. According to Professor Richardson, the law is complicit in a myriad ways, such as: compressing time through fast-track legislation; stipulating unsustainable time frames for resource exploitation; perpetuating temporal inertia, through limiting the retrospective application of legal requirements thereby limiting the law’s responsiveness to changing circumstances; and failing to adequately deal with remedying past ecological damage through focussing on restoration. His lecture was based on his book titled Time and Environmental Law: Telling Nature’s Time, published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.