Reimagining Environmental Law for the 21st Century

Gaines, Sanford E.
March 2014
Environmental Law Reporter: News & Analysis;Mar2014, Vol. 44 Issue 3, p10188
Aldo Leopold's 1947 observation still rings true today: we are "slipping two steps backward for each forward stride." Environmental law, which once expressed a social movement, has failed to keep pace with comprehensive ecological degradation. How can we reimagine it? Agreeing with Leopold that we need to change our "wants and tolerances" in order to change the "economic factors bearing on the land," we can draw from European sociology of law scholarship and two recent books invoking Plato as a philosopher-guide to a new set of social norms to argue that environmental lawyers should be leaders of a broad social movement to change norms. This means a fresh outlook on the role of law in society and the training of lawyers as social and business leaders cognizant of the natural world who are oriented to restructuring social norms and economic behaviors in order to alleviate today's extreme pressures on ecosystems and preserve social and ecological resilience for future generations.


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