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Using Legal Principles to Promote the "Health" of an Ecosystem
Tulsa Journal of Comparative & International Law (1996)
  • Martin H. Belsky, University of Akron School of Law

In the United States and throughout the world, traditional justifications and policies to protect the environment are under challenge. No longer will political leaders accept the old “command and control” method of regulation. Deregulation and flexibility are, for example, the catch-phrases of the new Republican Contract with America. No longer acceptable are the programs and laws that provided for different rules as to activities depending on whether they affected human health, water quality, resource conservation, air quality, land use, or the oceans or coasts. Rather the call is for “one-stop shopping” based on a holistic approach to the environment and protection of resources.

One response to this change in the legal and political environment is to wring hands and call for even tougher protective measures, like making any destruction of the environment a new crime of “ecocide.” A more productive alternative is to look at the real world from both a scientific and pragmatic perspective. This is the premise of the ecosystem management model

Dr. David J. Rapport, in explaining the concept of “ecosystem health,” has indicated that scientists and policymakers must focus on “real-world problems,” develop more systematic methods for “diagnosis, prognosis, and rehabilitation of ecosystems,” and seek a “more integrated understanding” of the relationship between biology, socio economic processes and “adaptive public policy.” This article will explore how evolving legal principles can promote the health of the ecosystem by forcing a comprehensive approach to policy, research, and management. I will first give an overview of the ecosystem management, policy, and research model, which I have described in more detail in earlier articles. I will then describe how recent events have reaffirmed the policymakers' support for this evolving doctrine, both at the national level and at the international level, as shown in new rules providing for sustainable development and protection of biological diversity.

  • ecosystem model,
  • ecology,
  • environmentalism
Publication Date
Citation Information
Martin H. Belsky, Using Legal Principles to Promote the "Health" of an Ecosystem, 3 Tulsa Journal of Comparative & International Law 183 (1996).