Sinking Islands, Rising Rocks: Law, Politics, and Territory in an Era of Planetary Crisis

We face overlapping problems of a planetary nature—climate crises, migration, security threats—which are, in a broad sense, questions about territory’s relationship to politics. I suggest fruitful points of connection between international legal scholarship and political theory. I highlight recent developments in international environmental law (e.g., differential equality principles and the use of domestic litigation in the US context to bring international claims) as well as the increasingly salient limitations and instabilities of the law of the sea (e.g. cartographic uncertainties, “sinking” and artificial islands) to show the mounting inadequacies of reliance on the principle of equal territorial sovereignty. Political theories which ground the relationship to territory in terms of political peoplehood can be adapted to conceive of this relationship in non-exclusive terms, allowing the aforementioned problems to be tackled in a more global and democratic fashion.