POLIS founder, Dr. Michael M’Gonigle (Professor Emeritus and former Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy, UVic Faculty of Law and School of Environmental Studies), undertook an innovative SSHRC-funded initiative with the assistance of several POLIS researchers to launch a new field in legal thought and practice, which he called Green Legal Theory (GLT).
GLT recognizes the limits of relying on state-centred, socially constraining regulations to protect the environment. In contrast to an environmental law approach, GLT seeks to understand how to create self-sustaining social, economic, and political institutions that are ecologically based and that transform society fundamentally. Legal and political institutions must offer much more than a discrete body of jurisprudence aimed at the protection or management of nature. Instead, what is needed is legal analysis that recognizes how the modern liberal state and society—including its environmental laws—are embedded in a governance framework of unsustainable legal and political-economic doctrines and practices. The next step is to explore how such doctrines and practices might be changed to develop sustainability.
Michael and his team worked to delineate the field of Green Legal Theory, setting forth how GLT promises to aid in the construction of more reflective, socio-culturally defined patterns of production and consumption, and, with this, more sustainable modes of legal and political–economic thought and practice.