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  3. Environmental Rights & Responsibilities

Environmental Rights & Responsibilities (LAWS20009)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codeLAWS20009
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject offers a legal approach to the environment and environmental and scientific knowledge. It provides an overview of the law that affects and regulates the environment, human relationships with the environment and the conduct of environmental agencies and environmental professionals. It explores this broad topic through a frame of "rights and responsibilities". The subject will bring together a number of sub-disciplines within the law, each with their own concepts of rights and responsibilities and different approaches to the environment. They may include environmental torts, international environmental law, environmental crime, conservation laws, human rights law, property law and environmental and planning law.

The subject will commence with a discussion of the making of environmental law, and develop a framework of rights and responsibilities of humans, species and "nature". The remainder of the subject will focus on a survey of legal topics and topical legal case studies drawn from Australia and overseas. Principal topics will change from year-to-year, though may include:

  • The extent of, and limits on, private property rights in the law and their role in land and environmental management;
  • Native title and Indigenous heritage and land rights and responsibilities and the implications for conservation and development (including mining);
  • International environmental rights and responsibilities, possibly in the context of world heritage protection, transnational environmental assessment and pollution, whaling or climate change;
  • The legalisation of the right to, and responsibility of, sustainable development;
  • The rise of human rights to environmental protection and their future extent within environmental law;
  • The notion of environmental rights and the enforcement of laws to protect non-human species and ecosystems; and
  • Responsibilities of individuals, agencies and organisations for pollution and contamination, and duties not to cause environmental harm.

Intended learning outcomes

The aims of this subject are to:

  • Introduce students to notions of rights within law, foundation legal principles and legal systems that regulate human relationships with land and the environment, and that seek to protect the environment or enable economic development;
  • Examine the legal responsibilities of nations, governments and humans to protect the environment from harm and conserve aspects of the environment;
  • Explore ideas about the legal rights of “nature” and the legal rights of humans to environmental protection, and critically evaluate the legal tools to achieve the protection of such rights;
  • Understand the responsibility of organisations, professionals and agencies to prevent pollution and restore environmental damage; and
  • Critique the environmental legal system through case study perspectives, and explore opportunities to reform the law so that it might better achieve its objectives.

Generic skills

A student who satisfactorily completes this subject will have:

  • Acquired knowledge of legal principles and regulatory systems relating to the environment and human use and modification of the environment;
  • Been introduced to the dominant notions of rights and responsibilities within a legal system, and acquired knowledge about how these notions link legal systems – especially international and domestic legal systems;
  • Used creative thinking and critical analysis skills to independently reflect, synthesise and extend acquired knowledge so to demonstrate understanding of the legal rights and responsibilities of various human and non-human components of the environment;
  • Planned a presentation directed at solving a perceived limitation in environmental law, and used research and analytical and persuasive communication skills to justify an independently formed viewpoint about environmental law; and
  • Demonstrated oral and written communication skills in presenting knowledge and ideas about how the law could improve its social and environmental objectives.

Last updated: 11 October 2019