Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1989

Abstract

The centerpiece of what follows is an article by Barry Commoner that appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1987.' The article, although an essentially popular work, is for several reasons worth the attention of a community professionally interested in law and the environment. First, it distills and supplements views that Commoner has advanced with much prominence throughout the life-twenty years to date-of the environmental movement in the United States. Thus it provides an opportunity for the present generation's students of environmental law, many of whom seem to know nothing of Commoner and his ideas, to become familiar with a significant voice in the intellectual history of the field. Second, the article endorses, as does some of Commoner's earlier work, a message of fundamental importance for anyone interested in the quality of the environment, and for lawyers in particular: to understand environmental problems, one has to understand economics and politics. This is a point I have urged upon students throughout my own twenty years of academic concern with environmental law and policy, against substantial resistance. Perhaps I can do better by enlisting Commoner, an ardent environmentalist of high standing, in behalf of the cause. That said, though, I should make clear a third reason to consider Commoner's article. It is one thing to see the relevance of political and economic theories and another to use them cogently. Commoner's critique of our present environmental situation is troublesome, and the program he proposes only more so.


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