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Rethinking Environmental Law

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Rethinking Environmental Law

Why Environmental Laws Should Conform to the Laws of Nature

9781788976022 Edward Elgar Publishing
Jan G. Laitos, Joe T. Juhan Endowed Professorship in Property Rights and Policy and Professor of Law, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, US
Publication Date: 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78897 602 2 Extent: 264 pp
Challenging historic assumptions about human relationships with nature, Jan G. Laitos examines how environmental laws have addressed environmental problems in the past, and the reasons for the laws' inability to successfully prevent environmental contamination and alterations of critical environmental systems. This forward-thinking book offers a creative and organic alternative to traditional but ultimately unsuccessful environmental rules. It explains the need for a new generation of environmental laws grounded in the universal laws of nature which might succeed where past and current approaches have largely failed.

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Challenging historic assumptions about human relationships with nature, Jan G. Laitos examines how environmental laws have addressed environmental problems in the past, and the reasons for the laws' inability to successfully prevent environmental contamination and alterations of critical environmental systems. This forward-thinking book offers a creative and organic alternative to traditional but ultimately unsuccessful environmental rules, highlighting that established approaches to existential threats impacting our natural environment cannot be relied upon.

Calling for a rethinking of how science is best used in environmental law, it explains the need for a new generation of environmental laws grounded in the universal laws of nature which might succeed where past and current approaches have largely failed. Proposing a new algorithm for the formulation of workable environmental laws, Laitos explores the ways in which these should be linked to the laws of connection, simplicity, economy, and symmetry. This innovative book illustrates examples of this new class of laws, based not on regulations and rules, but on rights and duties.

Rethinking Environmental Law will be an illuminating read for students and scholars of environmental law and policy. Suggesting an alternative role for science in developing environmental policy, it will also be of value to environmental policy makers.
Critical Acclaim
‘In an era when almost all commentators believe we must rethink environmental law, Jan G. Laitos stands out for having rethought it from top to bottom to align environmental law’s “algorithm” with the Laws of Nature. Distilling those laws to the three core universal principles of connectedness, economy, and symmetry, he leverages them to redesign the new algorithm around the concept of the social-ecological system, to which environmental law must assign rights and to which humans must bear positive duties of protection. Along the way he offers a sweeping history and critique of environmental law’s current algorithm of separation between humans and Nature. Anyone thinking we need to rethink environmental law should start with Laitos’s splendid book, and perhaps end there as well.’
– J.B. Ruhl, Vanderbilt University Law School, US

‘Almost everyone who works in environmental and natural resources law acknowledges that some changes are necessary, from the basics of recognizing that that various environmental media–air, water, land–are connected to the thornier issue of how to cope with climate change and the other realities of the Anthropocene. Jan G. Laitos goes back to first principles to ask how human-created environmental and natural resources law can better align with natural law. He offers a compelling mantra of symmetry, economy, and entanglement to replace our current emphasis on separation. Along the way, he touches on most of the most important currently debated issues in this field of law: the proper role of science in formulating policy; systems thinking; Earth Law; and Rights of Nature before returning again to first principles: every right has an accompanying duty. Rethinking Environmental Law's clear prose and fast pace make it accessible to anyone curious about the issues facing human “management” of the environment in the 21st century, while still offering an argument provocative to seasoned practitioners.’
– Robin Kundis Craig, University of Southern California, US

‘Jan G. Laitos has been the most intellectually creative, insightful, transdisciplinary, and underappreciated scholar of his generation – the “first-generation” of environmental law scholarship. Rethinking Environmental Law provides a profound reconsideration of how human environmental laws relate (or fail to relate) to the “Laws of Nature,” and offers a blueprint for re-configuring American environmental law that is theoretically well-grounded, yet eminently practical. Scholars in future decades will cite this book as a seminal contribution.’
– Daniel H. Cole, Indiana University, US
Contents
Contents: Prologue 1. Introduction: Replacing the standard algorithm for environmental law PART I UTILITARIAN SCIENCE AND A PRESUMPTION OF SEPARATION 2. Introduction to Part I 3. The standard model of nature and humans, and the historic presumption of separation 4. Environmental laws and the rule of separation PART II LOOK AT MOTHER NATURE ON THE RUN 5. Introduction to Part II 6. The reckoning PART III EXPLANATORY SCIENCE AND A NEW PRESUMPTION OF ENTANGLEMENT 7. Introduction to Part III 8. A more realistic model of nature and humans, reflecting a presumption of entanglement 9. Environmental laws reflecting a presumption of entanglement 10. The paralysis paradox and the untapped role of explanatory science in solving “big” environmental problems PART IV NO NEED FOR MORE LAW, ONLY DIFFERENT LAW 11. Introduction to Part IV 12. The laws of nature and the principle of universality 13. Environmental law and the Universal Laws of Nature PART V SYMMETRICAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS: RECIPROCAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES CONFORMING TO NATURE’S LAWS 14. Introduction to Part V 15. A positive legal right for the social-ecological system 16. A positive duty imposed on humans to ensure the survival of Earth’s SES Index
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