MOTHIUR RAHMAN trained at CMS Cameron McKenna, a top 20 City law firm, and worked at Bircham Dyson Bell for 7 years as Senior Associate in its Governance and Infrastructure department. He has extensive experience of advising on a range of environmental and planning and public law related matters, with a focus on public authorities and the authorisation of major infrastructure projects.
Mothiur completed a Masters in Ecological Design Thinking at Schumacher College in Dartington, Devon. He now works under New Economy Law, as a freelance legal practitioner supporting clients who are similarly driven to create an ecologically regenerative world. Read more at New Economy Law. At the time of publishing this transcript (April 2019), Mothiur is playing a key role in the Extinction Rebellion movement in London. He speaks with Resurgence podcast here about how the climate crisis is challenging neoliberalism through collective action.
In January 2017, Mothiur and I took a walk on Hampstead Heath in London to talk about his journey and inspiration. What follows is an edited transcript of our talk.
Mothiur, will you tell me more about your journey through law sofar?
It is a long journey. I did an English degree to begin with and I was always interested in the human condition. So, for law as a practice, I always felt called to justice, to doing the right thing, to being able to help people. I remember at law school, I would say to people, you know, where does love come into law? People would laugh at me and say: “What are you talking about?” It felt like a crazy idea. And, back then, I would laugh at myself but I remember coming across Charles Eisenstein during the Occupy Movement.
It was a video called The Revolution is Love. The book was called Sacred Economics and it was about love and economics. I thought: “Oh my God, here is a person that is talking about love and economics, two things that you could never associate together at this time, at this crux.” I remember thinking maybe I am not so crazy after all talking about love and law. That began a big opening for me into that longing, and finding other people with that similar longing. That time – it was 2011/2012 – it was a big shift in my world view.
You have studied at Schumacher College in Devon – a centre for holistic and ecological learning – how did that education compare to your traditional legal education in terms of methods of teaching and learning?
My mind had already adapted when I went from studying English to Law. My mind had to work, not intuitively, but bit-by-bit, building up the blocks of logic. I got used to this way of thinking.
It was not just Schumacher College that impacted this because that was really towards the end of my journey. Right at the beginning, something significant happened when I was practising environmental law in a fairly traditional firm. A partner in the firm had said he would let me know of any interesting environmental law conferences. One day he sent me a link to a conference about ‘Wild Law’ that was happening up in the Lake District.
The firm paid for me to go on this weekend. I don’t think this partner really knew what it was about because when we got there, we were “communing” with stones and with trees. Wild Law was this entire jurisprudential change to view nature, not as property but, as a living being which we are involved and participate in.
I was brought back to my childhood self, walking in the woods, communing with trees. I did not know what I was doing but, at the same time, I felt really excited by this complete different way of looking at law. There were other lawyers and barristers there, all quite young.
I remember just being really excited about this whole new landscape that was opening up. This was fairly early on in my legal career. So, that was the first step into thinking that law could be done in a very different way. It connected my passion for philosophy and thinking about the human condition and connecting it to nature.
After that experience of Wild Law, was it difficult to go back into the traditional law environment?
No, because, at that time, it was still just an experience. I found it useful to connect with other lawyers. We had our passion almost hidden though and we continued in our everyday work. It anchored in me though an understanding that there was this other way of looking at the world that I could follow as a hobby or an interest. For example, there were often Wild Law events, weekends away etc.
At that time, I didn’t think there was necessarily anything wrong with the paradigm I was working in. I basically thought that it was a little boring, and that it was good to have this other interest. I wanted to keep the money though, I needed the money. To me, at that time, I was still on that track of keeping to the career path, of having my status in the world being defined by money, by friends, by doing those activities that money could give me. That was where I was at. That weekend was not enough in itself to make me reconsider my legal career.
Tell me more about Wild Law – what it is, and how it is connected to Earth Law and your own philosophies now?
I would say that there are three strands. (1) Wild Law, which is connected to (2) Earth Law and I would also say that there is (3) Spiritual Ecology which is emerging. All three for me are linked because the overall driver is that we are part of nature. Within the consciousness of the human is all of nature, and there is a reciprocity between who we are as human beings, our consciousness as human beings and the world in which we participate.
Wild Law itself is a movement started by Cormac Cullinan, a lawyer in South Africa. He worked with Thomas Berry (who was a lecturer at Schumacher College actually). Thomas Berry was a cultural theologian who wrote a book called ‘The Great Work’. Within that book he said that the great work of the next movement in culture was to see the earth as a living place of subjects. It is not that the human being is a subject, that everything else is an object, and that the world is a resource that we use as property. Rather, everything is participating equally with ourselves. To open to that story, that everything is equally participating as ourselves, is to open into the grander, greater story of participation and love. Cormac Cullinan put this into a jurisprudential framework. He said if the Earth is being regarded as property, we need to move to seeing the living quality of the Earth as having inherent rights. Wild Law is about bringing the wildness of the essence of nature into our legal systems. Read a book review of ‘Wild Law’.
Earth Law similarly says that the Earth has rights. Coming from the South American tradition of Pachamama or Mother Earth, it is about perceiving this living quality and giving rights to the Earth and to its living systems to the same extent as human beings.
Spiritual Ecology is beginning to bring in the essence of the spirit – the idea of the spirit. Within ourselves there is a greater consciousness. There is a transcendental movement to want to feel that connection to the Divine – to see the Divine in the Earth and in the qualities of the Earth. Humans can connect to both and feel both. So, the ecology of the soul of the Self is the same as the ecology of the Earth. When we open into that story of the Self then we open into the story of the Earth.