Crossing the Flood by Feeling the Rooftops: Rethinking Nations and Territories During Climate Change

13:00 to 14:30
(GMT+01:00) Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna

As current normative theories of territory still rely on the stability and predictability of climate, geography, and demographics, and ideals of nation-building seem to counteract the need to maintain global perspectives, new approaches to borders and territories are needed in this age of climate change. In this open seminar, professors of philosophy Alejandra Mancilla and Tongdong Bai offer perspectives on these approaches.

Dynamic Territory: A Normative Theory of Territory for the Post-Holocene

Presented by Professor Alejandra Mancilla.

Climate change will disrupt current political, societal, and economic paradigms. However, current normative theories of territory still rely on the stability and predictability of climate, geography, and demographics. In this context, DynamiTE proposes to theorize territory amidst instability and unpredictability. Some of the questions we ask in the project are:

What should a fair territorial arrangement look like for countries that will partially or completely disappear due to sea level rise or whose main productive activities, like farming, will be lost due to changed weather patterns?
How should we consider locals and migrants in a world where climate refugees are estimated to reach up to one billion by 2050?
How should Global Systemic Resources—that is, resources that are key for the ongoing functioning of earth systems—be governed to guarantee their protection (considering that many times they lie across national boundaries)?
Should we consider “nature” (including nonhuman animals) as the bearer of rights and give it representation?
What may non-Western worldviews contribute to this more dynamic framing of territory?

Rather than coming up with a complete theory of territory, the aim of DynamiTE is to come up with principles that can help us navigate these changing circumstances in a peaceful and fair manner.
How to kill three birds (strength of the state, refugee crisis, and climate change) with one stone? – A Confucianism-inspired proposal

Presented by Professor Bai Tongdong.

The present democratic and global institutions are also ill-equipped to deal with climate change, a “perfect storm” to these institutions. The impacts of climate changes tend to be long-term and are often not evenly distributed among peoples of different regions, classes, and generations, whereas democracies can be set in motion when the majority of presently living voters of a particular state feels a clear and present danger. Globally, the situation is even worse, as there is no world government even if a majority of states agrees to do something about climate change.

I will argue that Confucianism can offer institutional responses to climate challenges. Domestically, a Confucianism-inspired hybrid regime combines popular elements with meritocratic ones, and the meritocratic branch of the government may address the issue of climate change better, as it is not beholden to the short-term material interests of the majority of the presently living voters. Internationally, in a Confucianism-inspired “New Tian Xia Order,” though sovereignty and the existence of states are acknowledged, sovereignty is conditioned on a state’s fulfillment of the duty to its own people and, to a lesser extent, to the rest of the world. This offers justification for international interventions, which should be carried out by the alliances of the “civilized” states that play the role of a benevolent world police and enforces humanity’s collective duty to the protection of the environment. As an example, I will show how a state can take care of its own interests while helping peoples from troubled states through controlled migration, and this solution can avoid the exacerbation of climate change due to population boom.
About the presenters
Alejandra Mancilla

Alejandra Mancilla is professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo. She works on global justice, human rights, territorial rights, animal and environmental ethics. Currently, she leads the five-year project “Dynamic Territory”, aimed at rethinking territorial governance in times of climatic, geographic, and demographic change, and she is working on a book project about Antarctica and/in political theory. She is the author of The Right of Necessity: Moral Cosmopolitanism and Global Poverty (Rowman & Littlefield 2016). Her work has been published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, Ethics and International Affairs, Grotiana, The Journal of Applied Philosophy, and Polar Record, among others.
Tongdong Bai

Dr. Tongdong Bai is the Dongfang Chair Professor of Philosophy at Fudan University in China, and a Global Professor of Law at NYU’s Law School. His research interests include Chinese philosophy and political philosophy. He has two books published in English: China: The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom (Zed Books, 2012), and Against Political Equality: The Confucian Case (Princeton University Press, 2019). He is now working on the philosophy of Han Fei Zi (c. 280-233 BCE), a “Legalist” and a harsh critic of Confucians, as well as a real-life princeling who is often compared with Machiavelli and Hobbes. Dr. Bai is also the director of an English-based MA and visiting program in Chinese philosophy at Fudan University that is intended to promote the studies of Chinese philosophy in the world.
About the seminar

This seminar will be an open forum on Zoom. The presenters will spend the first thirty minutes presenting their perspectives, followed by an open discussion. Participants are free and encouraged to join the discussion with their own perspectives.

Read more and register here

The Fudan-European Centre for China Studies
Online via Zoom

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