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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2011 Mar 13;369(1938):909-25. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0326.

The Anthropocene and the international law of the sea.

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Marine Affairs and Law of the Sea Programme, The Fridtjof Nansen Institute, PO Box 326, 1326 Lysaker, Norway.


The current law of the sea provides a framework for various specific issues, but is incapable of responding adequately to the overall challenges facing humankind, now conceivably already living in the Anthropocene. The linkages between the development of the law of the sea and the current process towards formal recognition of an Anthropocene epoch are twofold. First, there is a linkage of origin. The ideological foundations of the law of the sea facilitated the emergence of forces that were to lead to the Industrial Revolution and, eventually, to levels of development entailing ever-greater human impacts on the Earth System. Second, there are linkages in interaction. Geological information has prompted key developments in the law of the sea since the introduction of the continental shelf concept in the mid-twentieth century. With the formalization of the Anthropocene epoch, geology might again act as a trigger for new developments needed in the law of the sea. This article explores those two aspects of linkages and examines prospects for further development of the law of the sea framework, through concepts such as the responsibility for the seas as well as those related to new approaches to global sustainability such as the 'planetary boundaries'.

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