Document Type


Publication Date



Our legal system is contributing to humanity’s demise by failing to take account of our species’ situation. For example, in some cases law works against life and supports interests such as liberty or profit maximization.

If we do not act, science tells us that humanity bears a significant (and growing) risk of catastrophic failure. The significant risk inherent in the status quo is unacceptable and requires a response. We must act. It is getting hotter. When we decide to act, we need to make the right choice.

There is no better choice. You and all your relatives have rights. The basic ones are life, liberty, and property. These secular rights apply to each of us and to all of us equally. At least they should. In any event, life comes first, both individually and collectively—for without life, we have no other rights. A collective life failure destroys all individual rights.

We need to re-aim our systems from profit and wealth maximization toward supporting a longer life for the human species. Here is why: We are killing our planetary life support system. System failure kills our unique species, life as we know it, and all other rights. We are well on our way.

This paper can neither begin to provide all the troubling details, nor should it. Looking down into the abyss of failure is unlikely to help. Instead of fighting a growing multiplicity of confusing and sometimes contradictory problems, we should aim ourselves in the opposite direction, away from failure and collapse—and toward the survival of our species.

One key means to do this is with law which provides systems of control and enforcement of limits. We need to use law to structure and control the human system toward success. Instead of attempting to avoid death and collapse, we need to aim humanity toward a longer duration. Doing so will help structure our thinking and our laws, better protecting the rights of all. We need to engineer and aim law toward the survival of the human species and the life support system upon which we depend.

Such complex global problems we as a species create and thus face cannot possibly have a one-person solution. The enormity of the situation requires that we work together. But if we structure our work, we stand a better chance of success. How can law help with the structure to support a human future? This is a question of philosophy and law.


Legal philosophy, public health law, significant risks to human survival, law & politics, feasible risk reduction, safe level of risk imposition, hierarchy of interests & rights, law & economics, systemic risks, legal duty, reframing, re-aiming, environmental law, climate change, foreseeability, morality