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Ecological Law in the Anthropocene

Woolley, O. A (2021) 'Ecological Law in the Anthropocene.', in From Environmental to Ecological Law. .


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.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 30 June 2022.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in From Environmental to Ecological Law on December 31st 2020, available online:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:29 January 2021
Date of first online publication:30 December 2020
Date first made open access:30 June 2022

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