Europe and Central Asia
2 Oct 2017

The laws of nature

Białowieża Forest © Jaroslaw Krogulec
By Christopher Sands

In the editorial of this month’s edition of the Europe & Central Asia newsletter, Christopher Sands reflects on the ‘laws’ of nature. 


The past twelve months have been chock full of events that have brought us to this timely reflection on the law, its flouting and its enforcement.  The great philosopher Hannah Arendt, author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, brings a powerful perspective to the topic, having fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and escaping to the US from Paris in 1941.

No civilization would ever have been possible without a framework of stability, to provide the wherein for the flux of change. Foremost among the stabilizing factors, more enduring than customs, manners and traditions, are the legal systems that regulate our life in the world and our daily affairs with each other.” 

The modern European Union is a direct outcome of the ravages of the Second World War and its “framework of stability” has provided us with decades of peace in no small part because of the rule of law it provides to us all. And the threats which loom on the EU’s horizon are in no small part due to the growing tendency of some Member States to flout that rule of law and even ignore legally constituted judgments by the EU’s highest courts, submission to which is a non-negotiable part of democratically signed treaties and accession accords.

No sooner were we relieved by the victory citizens obtained in preserving the EU’s landmark nature laws, then we face a new devastating challenge. As outlined in our newsletter’s cover story this month, Poland demonstrates an outrageous disregard for the rule of law in taking chainsaws to the legally protected – and both culturally and environmentally irreplaceable – Białowieża Forest, a Natura 2000, UNESCO World Heritage site and one of our last surviving primeval forests.

More encouraging are our partners’ efforts to strengthen local wildlife protection. By setting their indefatigable canine ‘Hercule Poirots’ on the scent of bird crime, as detailed in two stories from the front lines of wildlife law enforcement, the impunity of those who would illegally kill some of our most magnificent birds is successfully challenged.

And finally, the long-tolerated crime of killing ortolans in France – by trapping and drowning them in alcohol for feasts reminiscent of the cruellest of Roman Emperors – may finally be coming to end. Following years of campaigning and EU infringement procedure, the new French government finally seems to be prepared to enforce the law. Our French BirdLife partner, LPO, will be closely following the situation on the ground to see if France’s recent edict is fully implemented on the ground. As the wisest of Roman senators would have recognised – “Ubi jus incertum, ibi jus nullum” (“Where the law is uncertain, there is no law”).


Christopher Sands - Head of Communications, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia 

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on the ECA section of this website are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.