Exploring the planetary boundaries’ wasteland: International law and the advent of the Molysmocene

Michael Picard, Olivier Barsalou

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Abstract / Description of output

Michael Hennessy Picard and Olivier Barsalou conclude Part II with a reflection in Chapter 11 on international law and, what they call, the ‘Molysmocene’. The Molysmocene is a neologism which defines the toxic, irradiated and polluted era we live in. It shows how social configurations do not only assemble life and nature, i.e. productive forces on a global scale; they also organize the redistribution and dispersion of pollution around the globe. We inhabit waste, dirt, and pollution; and – perhaps more telling – waste, dirt, and pollution inhabit us. The Molysmocene tells us that waste is a fundamental physical determinant of life and death in all known ecosystems. The authors show how waste and its contaminants have now irreversibly encroached on the planetary boundaries of the Earth system. In the light of this dilemma, they propose that calls for global ecological reform must accordingly: consider toxic waste as the primary threat to the preservation of planetary boundaries; consider international environmental law’s historic role in facilitating waste accumulation and dispersion; and acknowledge how waste is shifting and reordering the boundaries of law itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on Law, Governance and Planetary Boundaries
EditorsDuncan French, Louis J. Kotzé
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781789902747
ISBN (Print)9781789902730
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2021

Publication series

NameResearch Handbooks in Environmental Law

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Molysmocene
  • wasteland
  • waste management
  • international law
  • critical legal theory


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