In profile: Alice Bleby, PhD Student

UNSW PhD student Alice Bleby leapt at the chance to work on a topic she is passionate about, alongside highly respected scholars, through the UNSW Scientia program.

Supervised by Cameron Holley, Marc de Leeuw and Rosemary Rayfuse, Alice’s research is examining how rights of nature can be a useful legal tool for protecting the Earth in the Anthropocene.

Alice has always been driven by a passion for protecting the environment and views the planetary ecological crisis as the defining challenge of our time. Through her research, she is working to deepen global understanding of the rights of nature—an emerging legal phenomenon—and develop practical recommendations about establishing rights of nature in law.Alice Bleby, PhD Student, UNSW Faculty of Law

“The planetary ecological crisis is in fact an existential crisis for humanity and many other species, and closely examining proposed responses to this crisis—such as recognising the rights of nature—is both urgent and important,” says Alice

Alice has identified that the emerging doctrine of the rights of nature presents an opportunity to rethink the legal approach to nature and find more holistic, more effective and more sustainable ways of protecting the Earth in the Anthropocene.

“The idea of constructing legal protection through a rights mechanism resonates with me, and the emerging global examples of rights of nature in law inspire me to understand how they can help address the monumental ecological challenges we face,” says Alice.

“I hope my research will assist lawyers, advocates, communities and policy-makers to develop robust legal instruments to protect the rights of nature, with a clear understanding of when and how they can be useful.”

Alice has studied at the University of Melbourne, where she completed her BA/LLB (Hons) and Diploma of Modern Languages (French); at Aix-Marseille Université in France where she completed her Masters of International and European Environmental Law; and at The Australian National University where she completed her Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. She says she is enjoying studying at UNSW and has especially appreciated the opportunity to meet people working on interesting and diverse topics in the law faculty.

Recently, Alice took the opportunity to work on the Global Dialogue on Ocean Accounts, learning about a totally different way of approaching global environmental challenges while tapping into her interest in how technical and scientific environmental information is translated into law and policy.

I hope my research will assist lawyers, advocates, communities and policy-makers to develop robust legal instruments to develop robust legal instruments to protect the rights of nature

Alice Bleby, PhD Student

She says that as a PhD student, she has been warmly embraced as part of the UNSW Faculty of Law and she appreciates the way the Faculty approaches the study and practice of law: with a genuine and prominent concern for its role in society, and acknowledgement of the responsibility of lawyers and ‘legal thinkers’ to understand its impact on people, communities and the environment.

Once her PhD is complete, Alice aims to keep working on environmental protection and law reform but is open to different career pathways.

“I used to work in Government, so I could go back to that if the right opportunity arose; or work with a think-tank or similar non-government organisation—and I am also very interested in where an academic career might take me. I still have a couple of years to think about it, so I guess we’ll see!”

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