43 Austl. J. Leg. Phil. 107 (2018)
Ecological Vulnerability and the Devolution of Individual Autonomy

handle is hein.journals/ajlph43 and id is 115 raw text is: 







Ecological Vulnerability and the Devolution

                  of   Individual Autonomy

                         KATIE WOOLASTON'



I.  Introduction

We  are currently in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. It is estimated that 58% of all
species were lost forever between 1970 and 2012.1 A mass extinction event has the
potential to have wide-ranging and catastrophic effects on all of humanity, large
enough  to rival the impacts of other drivers of global environmental destruction,
such as climate change.2 Loss of biodiversity reduces the efficiency of ecosystems
in producing  the nutrients and biomasses  that are not only essential for their
continued existence, but also ours.3 These processes keep our air breathable, water
drinkable, and the Earth liveable. Species decline is linked to a decrease in food
security because of poor water cycling systems and soil fertility, pollination and
seed  dispersal, and less  control of  'pest' species and  diseases.4 Declining
contributions to the functioning of ecosystems is also likely to increase the effects
of climate change.
      Biodiversity loss is a concern to us all. We are all susceptible to these effects,
including increased temperatures, less breathable air, and decreased food security.
This susceptibility is our 'ecological vulnerability', and is inherently linked with our


t     PhD candidate, Griffith Law School, Australia, and Lecturer, Queensland University
      of Technology, Australia. This article was the winner of the 2018 ASLP Essay Prize.
      My  gratitude goes to Professor Jonathan Crowe and the other members of the Essay
      judging team for their comments and support of the article, as well as Professor
      Martha Fineman and all the members of the Vulnerability and the Human Condition
      Initiative, for their comments and feedback on an early presentation of this piece.
      Finally, my thanks go to the Editors for their helpful comments.
1     See World Wildlife Fund, Living Planet Report 2016; Risk and Resilience in a New
      Era  (2016) WWF International, 4  <https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-
      planet-report-2016>, wherein Johan Rockstrom explains that the report is premised
      on the concept that we are now in the geological epoch of 'the Anthropocene',
      defined by the human impact on the planet.
2     Bradley J Cardinale et al, 'Biodiversity Loss and its Impact on Humanity' (2012)
      486(7401) Nature 59, 61; David U Hooper  et al, 'A Global Synthesis Reveals
      Biodiversity Loss as a Major Driver of Ecosystem Change' (2012) 486(7401) Nature
      105, 105.
3     Cardinale et al, above n 2, 60.
4     WWF,  above n 1, 50.
5     Ibid.

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