Adaptive Law and Resilience
Citation: 43 ELR 10426
Environmental law is under intense pressure to develop an adaptive framework. According to resilience science, interconnected ecological and social systems are dynamic, complex, and subject to abrupt and unpredictable change. In contrast, environmental law’s foundations assume that nature is relatively stable, changing primarily in linear patterns within a range of predictable conditions. Moreover, the U.S. legal system aims to create certainty and security in the distribution of resources, favors top-down “panacea” or “optimal instrument” solutions to problems, and uses linear processes. These features of U.S. environmental law are maladaptive, making it ill-suited for emerging environmental challenges. Improving the adaptive capacity of environmental law will require the development of overarching systemic principles that maintain the resilience and adaptive capacity of ecological and social systems, not merely the occasional use of specific adaptive methods.