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In the Anthropocene: adaptive law, ecological health, and biotechnologies


Climate change has induced an ecological crisis necessitating reconsideration of how the law should manage human interactions with ecological systems. In most Western legal regimes, conservation policy has principally sought to advance historical or natural preservation or sustained yield objectives, while many laws governing biotechnologies focus on minimising exposure to ‘natural’ systems. Meanwhile, Western public processes are largely built on a legal framework that assumes comprehensive rationality at the front end of decision-making. Lastly, prevailing public conservation governance is fragmented, save the limited attempts to consolidate or coordinate decentralised, independent, and/or overlapping authority. The increasingly convulsive effects of climate change and developments in biotechnology bring to stark relief the limitations of prevailing Western public conservation goals, processes, and institutional design. First, promoting biodiversity may require fundamental changes in management to focus on increasing ecological health and other values than consumption, historical fidelity, and nonintervention. Second, integration of adaptive and inclusive processes is imperative for promoting both effective management strategies and learning in the face of unprecedented change. Third, policymakers must appreciate the tradeoffs of allocating authority across the array of institutional structures, and tailor not only the scale of interventions but also the extent of overlap and coordination of authority.

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