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Part IV Introduction

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Part IV shows in more detail how ineffective recent environmental governance has been. When even the basics of human existence – the water we drink, the food we eat and the climate that sustains us – are seriously at risk, something fundamental must have gone wrong. Despite their different subjects, all chapters have their origins in the observation of profoundly misconceived concepts in current legal regimes. And each chapter touches upon ethical foundations that need changing, not merely regulatory instruments at national and international levels.

Continuing the theme of the previous parts, this part is concerned with applying ecological integrity thinking to law and governance, in this case food, water and climate change. Rather than treating food, water or greenhouse gases as pure commodities that can be subjected to any kind of legal regime or management scheme, we need to think of ecological interconnections first. What we eat and how it is being produced, has implications for the wider food chain and the integrity of related ecosystems such as agricultural environments. Water is an integral part the planets ecological system and inextricably linked, for example, with the global climate system. And climate change, in turn, affects agricultural and water supply systems in the most dramatic way.

How then to regulate and manage these interconnections more effectively is the overarching concern of the following chapters. One dilemma of current environmental regulations has been that they are either too general (hence not sufficiently prescriptive) or too specific (hence not sufficiently comprehensive). Typically, environmental legislation is designed around specific subjects; for example, food security. This is in itself problematic as no single concern can be dealt with irrespective of wider social and ecological implications. But more alarmingly, most subject-focused laws follow an economic rationality that captures issues of access, cost efficiency, demand and supply, but little more. The integrity of the associated ecosystems is not included, in many instances not even a general sustainability benchmark.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law
    Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law is the latest product of research by the Global Ecological Integrity Group (www.globalecointegrity.net), an organisation that has been meeting annually since 1992 to discuss scientific, philosophical, political and legal aspects of ecological integrity. This collection examines various aspects of governance from the standpoint of integrity: from democracy, to forms of Native governance, from globalization and neocolonialism to specific human rights to food, water and climate.
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