The Science and Environmental Health Network

Law for the Ecological Age

Law for the

Ecological Age

It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. Aldo Leopold

Our current American legal system was designed for a different world. In the Industrial Age of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Earth’s resources seemed endless. The law was intentionally structured to promote economic activity even if it caused environmental damage, since the benefits of economic growth were believed to outweigh the costs.

As human activity has grown so tremendously, however, we have discovered the limits of the Earth. We now find that natural resources are finite. Pollution and other environmental damage are harming people and eliminating species, degrading ecological systems, and changing the global climate. In this 21st century, we are beginning to pay dearly with our health and environment for our destructive industrial practices. We see now that we are capable of destroying our only home.

At the Science & Environmental Health Network, we believe we must alter our course. Under our democratic system, the law is required to promote the public welfare, now and for future generations. To do this in our current Ecological Age, the law must be transformed to recognize that we must live within the ecological constraints of the Earth.

Our legal code should reward healthy, sustainable economic activity and treat all people and species as neighbors: integral parts of the Earth’s ecological systems. It must also honor and uphold our nation’s historic commitment to equal rights and justice for all.

We have created these web pages on Law for the Ecological Age as a resource for allies. Here you will find ideas about transforming the law to promote the long-term welfare and health of the Earth and her inhabitants--implementing the precautionary principle and environmental justice, incorporating the interests of future generations, accounting for cumulative impacts to overburdened communities, abiding by the Public Trust Doctrine, shifting the burden of proof, and more. We have also included tools that may be freely used for making change happen.

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