TJ is a lens that can be applied to any area of the law, this week Guest Blogger Femke Wijdekop continues our exploration of environmental law…

The Scottish law firm Living Law recently published a report, Giving Nature a Voice – Granting Nature Legal Rights, analyzing legal developments to recognize rights of nature in the jurisdictions of New Zealand, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and India.  The report speaks of a growing momentum for rights of nature, but also signals recurring challenges in their enforcement, especially when they have to be upheld against well-entrenched property rights.

In my paper Advancing Rights of Nature through Restorative Justice, I look at how restorative justice to play an additional role in advancing the rights of nature.

What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice is a social movement and set of practices that aim to redirect society’s retributive response to crime. It views crime not as a depersonalized breaking of the law but as a wrong against other members of the community. It involves community-based processes, which offer an inclusive way of dealing with offenders and victims of crime through facilitated meetings.

With its focus on healing the harm caused by crime for all parties involved, restorative justice can be seen as a therapeutic tool to improve the wellbeing of those who are affected by the law. As such it is related to Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ), which studies how systems of justice influence behavioural outcomes and emotional wellbeing.

In New Zealand and Australia restorative justice is applied to environmental crimes and in New Zealand nature is sometimes recognized as a victim of environmental crime in its own right, and represented in the restorative process.

My paper gives a short overview of these cases, which shows the potential of restorative justice to advance the recognition of nature as a victim and to vindicate nature’s rights. It shows that when the environment is recognized as being a victim of environmental crime and is represented in the restorative justice process, it can become empowered because it is given a voice, validity and respect.

This is a transformative act as it recognizes the intrinsic value of the environment. Giving the environment a voice and recognizing and healing it as a victim contributes to transforming humanity’s relationship with the environment from one of exploitative ownership towards respect and a duty of care.

Restorative justice processes allow a wide range of values, including spiritual and emotional values, to be expressed and acknowledged. Thanks to this ‘open’ character, restorative justice could be well suited to give space for rights of nature-approaches to what constitutes an environmental violation, who can be a victim of such a violation, and what ‘restoration’ could look like from an ecocentric perspective. As such, restorative justice seems to hold great potential as an avenue to advance the rights of nature.

You may read my full paper here.

I welcome your feedback on this blog and my paper. You can contact me at

Interested in TJ and environmental law? read last week’s blog by Nabeela Siddiqui

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