International environmental law aims to resolve and prevent environmental disputes between two or more countries, and to solve environmental crises that damage the health and economies of those affected. Although environmental legislation aims to promote sustainable development, it is limited by several factors. These ranges from a lack of economic resources with which to implement laws, corruption, lack of an established normative structure, and lack of commitment by the countries involved; to restraints stemming from the economic and political interests that determine legislation and governments. More fundamentally, the essence of the law is permeated by, and emanates from, humankind’s philosophy of dominance over all other species. International conferences, meetings, agreements and treaties seek to preserve the environment and to promote sustainable development. These include efforts to control hazardous materials, slow climate change, prevent the extinction of species and restore the health of oceans and rivers. Inherent in these laws is the concept of the human species as the beneficiary of every other species on earth. This, from an evolutionary point of view, we are a failed species, as we do not adapt to the environment, but rather adapt the environment to us. Important improvements have been made in International Environmental Legislation and its contribution to Sustainable Development, but a change of focus is still required, from an anthropocentric to a holistic point of view, where the purpose should not be the well-being of the human species but the maintenance of the Earth’s biotic equilibrium, in which individuals and societies participate. 1. Limitations of Environmental Law for Sustainable Development. In general terms, international environmental law seeks to solve environmental conflicts between two or more countries, and to prevent environmental crises that endanger health and resources. As a primary objective, environmental law seeks to promote sustainable development; however, different constraints prevent achieving this objective. These constraints go from lack of law enforcement, to the lack of economic resources, authorities’ ignorance of the law, corrupt authority, the absence of rules and regulations, sociocultural aspects and economic interests, and above all, humans’ philosophy of dominating the environment and its resources for immediate gains and satisfaction. The meaning of Sustainable Development has changed over time. The Rio Summit stated: “Sustainable Development is one that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [1]. This definition ignores the right of existence of all other species. In order to guarantee the survival of the human species, it has to be understood that humans are but one species in the evolution of the Biosphere and that the survival of one species the human depends upon the stability of the environment, sustained by the ensemble of every species. Therefore, a holistic view of sustainability has to replace the anthropocentric point of view. We therefore propose a definition that includes every species on the planet: “Sustainable Development is one that meets the needs of every species on the planet allowing their biological development and evolution without compromising the ability of future human generations to meet their own needs.” International legislation starts with treaties between two or more nations. Those signing the treaty commit to creating laws in their own countries to enforce the agreements. These laws have to be enforced with norms and codes which state established parameters and obligations, as well as the sanctions for trespassing them. The United Nations Organization supports this legislation through its Environment Program (UNEP). 2.1. Objectives of the Legislation. The first limitation on Sustainable Development lies within the objective of the law itself. Laws are created to protect economic interests. As an example, international water treaties limit the exploitation of resources. The law does not explicitly consider the needs of the species inhabiting those waters. It only seeks to prevent disputes among nations and safeguard the resources for the benefit of the nation with the rights over that water. Another objective of environmental law that hinders sustained development is remediation. Once resources have been damaged or destroyed, jeopardizing human survival, health or general well-being, laws may be made that seek to recover the lost resource to prevent the threat to humans, without considering the impact on other species. Examples of this are the laws governing nuclear hazards and dangerous materials.

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