Environmental law plays a key role in shaping policy for sustainability. In particular, the types of legal instruments, institutions, and the response of law to the inherent variability in socio-ecological systems are critical. Environmental protection has typically involved a command-and-control approach that is implemented in response to specific environmental problems. Often the response is reactive and applied to crisis situations. Ruhl contends that command-and-control approaches to environmental problems have been very successful at dealing with air and water pollution, because the regulations were able to address the "low-hanging fruit" (e.g., point-source pollution, waste disposal) problems which are relatively easy to address. 3 The next wave of environmental challenges (e.g., cross-boundary water disputes, climate change) are not so easily addressed within the current law and policy framework, because although the problems may be easily identified, the solution requires frequent recalibration of the policy used to address the environmental issue.
Ahjond S. Garmestani, Craig R. Allen, and Heriberto Cabezas,
Panarchy, Adaptive Management and Governance: Policy Options for Building Resilience,
87 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol87/iss4/5