The Influence of Ecology on Environmental Law: Challenges to the Concept of Traditional Law

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Keywords: Ecology, the environmental problematic, environmental ethic, social science, ecosystem concept

Abstract: Environmental law has emerged under the influence of ecology as a distinct branch of law. Indeed there is a co-evolution process between these two disciplines which rests on a common basis derived from the challenges what is described here as the 'environmental problematic' to the established relationships between human being and nature. This article evaluates the subject taking into consideration generally accepted facts and principles in ecology, whilst avoiding scientific details and discussions. Environmental law is also considered not in the sense of sector-based environmental legislation but in a general conceptual framework common for all countries and based on sociological as well as ethical aspects. In consequence the article underlines new themes which are not familiar in the traditional positive law concept. The influence of ecology on the aim, scope, approach, characteristics and concepts of environmental law, which are different from traditional concepts of law, are explained before reaching a conclusion. Although law and ecology are mainly reviewed the explanations also point out the significant role of other disciplines such as economics, politics and ethics.

The main conclusion is that whether the influence of ecology on environmental law will produce more positive results in the future largely depends on the extent to which the current remedies of environmental law will change the traditional ethical perceptions of human activity based on the classical economic paradigm towards a more ecocentric ethic.

Introduction

Environmental law has developed as a separate and unique branch of law over the last three decades under the influence of ecology. Ecology and environmental law has been an ongoing co-evolution process since 1970s. The main reason is that both of them are derived from the challenge of the environment to the established relationships between human being and nature. Almost every aspect of industrial civilization, including legal as well as economic thinking, has been subject to this challenge. Therefore it has been inevi¬table that both ecology and environmental law have developed entirely new concepts and principles reflecting this radical progress.

This article mainly analyses the influence of ecology on environmental law in the light of the interaction of two disciplines. In this context it emphasizes some concepts, methods and characteristics of environmental law in challenging the established rules of tradi¬tional law and reflecting this interaction.1 It makes no attempt to cover the detailed historical background of these two disciplines' co-evolutionary process within specific 'ecosystem laws' nor the detailed explanations of the relevant legal concepts.

On the other hand the article evaluates the subject by taking into consideration only the generally accepted facts in ecology since the analysis of the science of ecology is beyond the capacity of a social scientist. Its principal aim is to draw a general picture that covers all significant common points of interdisciplinary perspective by using a simple rather than technical language. Thus the term ecology is considered in a general framework based on an ecosystem concept excluding major subdivisions.

The notion of environmental law is also considered as a main, legal, conceptual framework and as a discipline aiming to solve environmental problems as a whole. Therefore it does not include an empirical analysis of sector-based legislation. The main aim is to clarify the importance of overarching environmental law as a discipline which indeed provides primary data for enacting media-based environmental legislation or positive law. As a consequence the article will touch on the theoretical foundations of law reflecting sociological and ethical aspects and then will underline the new themes which are not familiar in traditional positive law, since environmental law is based on the facts of ecology. The explanations will also underline the significant role of other disciplines such as economics, politics and ethics in reflecting ecological facts in law.

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