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Steinbeck’s Holism: Science, Literature, and Environmental Law
  • Robert R.M. Verchick, Loyola University New Orleans
Advances in science, resource economics, global trade, and information exchange challenge environmental policymaking as never before. Only a few decades ago, an environmental ethic based on human stewardship and the "balance of nature" provided a lodestar toward which much environmental law aimed. Today's science increasingly questions these norms, leaving some experts to search for environmental objectives in science only. But because science does not endorse a normative social goal, its vision will always be incomplete. One hundred years after his birth, John Steinbeck - the celebrated writer and amateur biologist - can enlighten today's ecological struggles. Steinbeck was deeply influenced by ecological principles and developed in his writing a holistic methodology to describe and evaluate the relationships among humans, social institutions, and the non-human world. He appropriated values from both the natural sciences and the humanities to inform his methods. From the sciences, he borrowed the concepts of connection and complexity. From the humanities, he borrowed the ethic of compassion. Steinbeck's holism holds promise for today's environmental policymakers because it bridges the gap between what some might call laws of the head and laws of the heart. In doing so, his method illuminates such issues as wetlands mitigation, risk assessment, and even statutory interpretation.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Robert R.M. Verchick. "Steinbeck’s Holism: Science, Literature, and Environmental Law" STANFORD ENVIRONMENTAL LAW JOURNAL Vol. 22 (2003)
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