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Session 2

Perspectives on Environmental Law and Policy 

(Basic Themes of Environmental Law; Three Analytical Frameworks)


Environmental Policy & Law  Chapter 2: Perspectives on Environmental Law & Policy
Nested Ecology Chapter 1 Developing a Practical and Sustainable Ecology
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution


Class Assignment:

Read the assigned text chapter first and then read the founding documents as linked above. Be prepared to be examined on session 10 on any or all of the environmental terms or concepts found in chapter 2 or in the section below. For your homework for this class session, answer the following questions from the text:


1.     Briefly describe the three analytical frameworks discussed in the text.


2.     Now describe how the analytic framework presented in Chapter 1 of Nested Ecology differs from the three analytical frameworks presented in Chapter 2 of Environmental Policy and Law


3.     Please discuss the various ways in which markets can fail. 


4.     Describe the various forms of bias that can cloud environmental policy and law.


Thereafter answer the following questions from the online Founding Documents:

1.     From where do citizenship and constitutional rights emanate. Explain.

2.     To what degree are "nature's" rights reflected in the founding documents. Explain the rationale behind your answer.

3.     Read the article "Introducing the Constitution to Congress," and discuss whether the U.S. Congress and the President have any authority to legally regulate the environment.

4.     Some argue that the constitution is not "green enough" and should be amended to insure that every citizen has a right to a clean and healthy environment.  Would you favor such an amendment or oppose it? Explain your rationale.

5.     Currently do you believe the U.S. Constitution is a "living document" that must be reinterpreted in terms of new knowledge, values and from the perspective of other nation's laws and constitutions or do you believe it is a set of foundational principles that must be adhered to in their current format? Consider the position of the blogger who goes by the pseudonym Joe Btfspik in "Interpreting Our Constitution: Living Document or Original Intent" and tell me which of these two positions you favor and why

6.     To what portions of the Constitution do lawmakers look to provide authority for environmental legislation and policies? Explain the rationale used to apply these sections of the constitution to environmental issues.

Class Topics:


Basic Themes of Environmental Law

  1. Scientific Uncertainty: See "The 4P Approach to Dealing with Scientific Uncertainty," by Robert Costanza & Laura Cornwell

  1. Market Failures: See "The End of Market Failure," by Richard O. Zerbe & Howard McCurdy

  1. Mismatched Scales:  "Scale is a concept that transcends disciplinary boundaries. In ecology and geography, scale is usually defined in terms of spatial and temporal dimensions. Sociological scale also incorporates space and time, but adds ideas about representation and organization. Although spatial and temporal location determine the context for social and ecological dynamics, social-ecological interactions can create dynamic feedback loops in which humans both influence and are influenced by ecosystem processes. We hypothesize that many of the problems encountered by societies in managing natural resources arise because of a mismatch between the scale of management and the scale(s) of the ecological processes being managed. We use examples from southern Africa and the southern United States to address four main questions: (1) What is a “scale mismatch?” (2) How are scale mismatches generated? (3) What are the consequences of scale mismatches? (4) How can scale mismatches be resolved? Scale mismatches occur when the scale of environmental variation and the scale of social organization in which the responsibility for management resides are aligned in such a way that one or more functions of the social-ecological system are disrupted, inefficiencies occur, and/or important components of the system are lost. They are generated by a wide range of social, ecological, and linked social-ecological processes. Mismatches between the scales of ecological processes and the institutions that are responsible for managing them can contribute to a decrease in social-ecological resilience, including the mismanagement of natural resources and a decrease in human well-being. Solutions to scale mismatches usually require institutional changes at more than one hierarchical level. Long-term solutions to scale mismatch problems will depend on social learning and the development of flexible institutions that can adjust and reorganize in response to changes in ecosystems. Further research is needed to improve our ability to diagnose, understand, and resolve scale mismatches in linked social-ecological systems.

  1. Cognitive Biases: See Greenfinch's extensive taxonomy on cognitive bias. Also, become familiar with the terms "availability heuristic," "availability cascade," "anchoring effect," "attributional biases," and "egocentric interpretations of fairness."

  1. Sustainable Development: See the 2005 article "What is Sustainable Development?" by Kates, Parris, and Leiserowitz on sustainable development. You should become familiar with the terms "intragenerational equity" and "intergenerational equity

  1. Protected Interests: See Board of Regents v. Roth (1972) for a feel of what the court means by "protected interests."

Three Analytical Frameworks:


  1. Environmental Rights

  1. Utilitarian Economics and Cost-Benefit Analysis

  1. Environmental Justice


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