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This seminar examined how aesthetic values influence human environmental behavior and how the law can and should facilitate aesthetic values. While science and economics supply a variety of ''objective" reasons to conserve nature, such as revealing its biodiversity values or economic benefits, these disciplines do poorly in emotionally engaging people with their environs. But although aesthetic values might fill this void, they have their own complications for law-makers including the difficulty of finding common aesthetic criteria to underpin legal decisions. Furthermore, because access to natural environments is limited for many people, its aesthetic values may be accessible mainly indirectly and vicariously through the arts whose preferred imagery and narratives resonate primarily with specific socio-economic groups (eg, the well educated, affluent and urban). Answers to these and other challenges were considered in this seminar's exploration of a new direction for environmental law.
Based in Tasmania, one of the world’s most fascinating places in the recent history of legal and political struggles over the natural environment, Benjamin J. Richardson is a Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Tasmania, as well, in 2017, the Global Law Visiting Chair at Tilburg University. He has devoted his international career to pioneering a more ambitious conversation about the philosophical and theoretical dimensions of environmental law, with a particular focus on time, aesthetics and ethics in environmental governance. Through this framework, he has researched many issues including Indigenous peoples and environmental management, ethical investing, corporate social responsibility, time in social and ecological systems, and most recently the role of aesthetics and the arts in environmental behaviour and law.