Life’s not great. And according to the figures, it’s only going to get worse. From rising sea levels to patriarchal regimes, we are currently living in a time rife with geopolitical turbulence. Those facing (or soon to face) the daunting global challenges ahead, at first glance, have little to be optimistic about. That’s where the law comes in. Among its obvious legislative function in ensuring laws and regulations are instated and upheld and its presentation as a stringently unemotional field, the law has the power above all else, to inspire change and thus hope for those facing adversity. By harnessing this, the law offers us a ‘new and powerful legal means of fostering social change’ (Abrams, Keren 2007) inspiring optimism worldwide.

Environmental legislation could change the world and help to thwart the climate crisis. For instance, in 2015, the UN introduced its 17 sustainable development goals, driving forward its 2030 agenda for sustainable development via its 193 members. However, when the goals were first announced, they were heavily criticised. In an article by Professor William Easterly, he wrote the SDG’s were ‘dreamy’ and grossly unrealistic, serving only to illustrate the ‘decline and fall of hopes for Western foreign aid’ (Easterly 2015). Fast forward to today and unfortunately, the SDGs are not moving fast enough to reach their goal. Despite this, the SDGs have sparked the creation of legislation that has proved undeniably effective. For example, the pioneering EU Regulation on deforestation-free supply chains will force companies trading in the EU market to prove their products have not been produced on land that has been subject to deforestation/severe destruction of biodiversity. As all EU members are also independent UN members, it is reasonable to suggest the link between their recent regulation and shared desire to advance the SDG’s. This regulation hints at the advancement of sustainable development on an international scale, highlighting the significance of the development of environmental legislation to provide optimism for future challenges.

Furthermore, the law has the power to provide hope for those oppressed under tyrannical legal systems for a better, fairer future. A key example of where this power can be seen is in Iran. Almost a year ago today, Mahsa Amini was murdered by Iran’s ‘morality’ police for not wearing her hijab by the standard required by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Spurred on by her death, Iranian women refused to stay silent, commencing the Iranian women’s riots. In Iran’s case, through the law’s power to inspire hope, it can adversely do the opposite. Iran’s parliament has passed a controversial bill increasing punishments for women deemed ‘inappropriately’ dressed. Despite this, the battle is not over for women’s emancipation in Iran. After the eruption of the protests, the UN voted to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women, standing with Iranian women and against the country’s suppression of human rights. US CSW ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated that endorsing Iran’s membership of the CSW was an ‘ugly stain on the Commission’s credibility.’ This act of support by the UN highlights the significance of the actions of international legal bodies in catalysing social change and hope.

To conclude, the law fosters optimism extrinsically and intrinsically, driving social change in the direst circumstances. Despite my initial cynicism, we are ‘living in a time of unmatched possibility and opportunities.’ This might be true for us, but for those who currently aren’t and have limited prospects of a brighter future, I am adamant the law can provide them with this. Our world is changing for the better, and long-term thinking and work in law can catalyse change.


Abrams, K. and Keren, H. (2007). Law in the Cultivation of Hope. California Law Review, [online] 95(2), pp.319–381.

Easterly, W. (2015). The SDGs Should Stand for Senseless, Dreamy, Garbled. [online] Foreign Policy. Available at:

Hawley C. (2023). Iran’s women on Mahsa Amini’s death anniversary: ‘I wear what I like now’. BBC News. [online] 15 Sep. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2023].

Martin (2023). The Sustainable Development Agenda. [online] United Nations Sustainable Development. Available at: (2022). Iran Removed from UN Commission on the Status of Women | UN News. [online] Available at: