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Ecological Law in the Anthropocene

Woolley, O.A

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K. Anker

P. Burdon

G. Garver

M. Maloney

C. Sbert


The chapter examines how the Anthropocene’s advent has affected the ability of humans to stop their activities from having negative ecological effects by applying legal controls to them. It finds that attempts to prevent actions from harming ecosystems through regulation have always been hampered by significant difficulties with predicting how ecosystems may react to disturbance. The Anthropocene elevation of human influence to the Earth system level exacerbates this situation by adding further layers of complexity and non-linearity to an already challenging position. This does not mean that relevant knowledge for ecological regulation is lacking. Section 2.1 identifies types of warning signs of growing vulnerability to disturbance that ecosystems have always given. The chapter calls for the adoption of laws for ecosystem protection under which duties are triggered automatically by warning signs. Adopting such a legal outlook would militate for international collaboration on reducing factors eroding ecosystem resilience, and, where possible, on restoring this property. A common response by States is needed in view of prevalent warning signs that all ecosystems are vulnerable to deterioration in their life-supporting capacity. Law’s principal role under such a collaboration would be to facilitate urgent transition in the global economy and in ways of living away from an ecologically unsustainable present.


Woolley, O. (2021). Ecological Law in the Anthropocene. In K. Anker, P. Burdon, G. Garver, M. Maloney, & C. Sbert (Eds.), From Environmental to Ecological Law. Routledge

Online Publication Date Dec 30, 2020
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Dec 18, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 30, 2022
Publisher Routledge
Book Title From Environmental to Ecological Law
ISBN 9780367431082
Publisher URL


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