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Law & Political Ecology

Political ecology is a powerful new discipline that asks us to examine a critical but neglected aspect of modern life – the sources of our social wealth. This has long been a concern in the field of political economy, but political ecology focuses on a particular aspect of this, posing the question: How does nature subsidize our institutional and cultural life? To understand how wealth is created takes us beyond the usual concerns of environmental law and forces us to examine our economic dependence and how institutions are designed. 

Our current governance systems are in need of ecological reform – from the unsustainable exploitation of resources such as water and forests, to the high throughput demanded by our urban infrastructure and our dependence on economic growth. 

It has been taken on faith that through the application of scientific knowledge and appropriate regulation society can enjoy the benefits of a consumer lifestyle and still maintain an acceptable level of ecological health. The pace of the earth’s decline demonstrates otherwise. Extractive, linear, unsustainable modes of production and consumption must be replaced by circular, reflective systems of social, cultural, and economic practice. A prime objective of POLIS’s research in the area of law and political ecology is to explore frameworks for governance that support this transformation. This is the pressing task of legal reform today, to foster new systems that can take us beyond such dependence through the pursuit of whole systems of ecological governance. 

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Page last updated: 02/07/2013