Ecological restoration and the law: recovering nature's past for the future
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Environmental law worldwide dwells on nature’s future, not its past. The plethora of environmental regulations and policies orients society, ostensibly, to avoid impending threats and nurture long-term stewardship of natural resources. The ‘past’, in the sense of the natural world’s historic condition before the human onslaught, is relegated for protection in discrete enclaves we commonly call national parks while the much larger, remaining spaces have been left open for dramatic transformation for anthropocentric needs. With each successive human generation, our memories of nature’s former riches are dissipated. Incremental, attritional environmental decline unfolds mostly too gradually to be observed by individuals within their own lives, thereby rendering most insouciant about their degrading surroundings. We see congested roads, sprawling housing, busy shopping malls and so on, as the environment’s ‘normal’ condition, oblivious to the biodiversity riches that once graced the landscape. To the extent that environmental law looks to the past, to undo some of our mischief, it tends to intervene only in spatially and temporally narrow parameters such as to rehabilitate former mining sites or to remediate pollution contamination. Rarely does the law seek to repair holistically the ubiquitous degraded landscapes and ecosystems in our midst despite emerging duties on states to do so in transnational environmental law. The challenges for environmental governance are thus particularly onerous in a world infatuated with its future.
Griffith Law Review
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