Beyond zero-sum environmentalism

Environmental Law Institute
Publication date:



Environmental law and environmental protection have long been portrayed as requiring tradeoffs between incompatible ends: "jobs versus environment;" "markets versus regulation;" "enforcement versus incentives." Behind these views are a variety of concerns, including resistance to government regulation, skepticism about the importance or extent of environmental harms, and sometimes even pro-environmental views about the limits of Earth's carrying capacity. This framework is perhaps best illustrated by the Trump Administration, whose rationales for a host of environmental and natural resources policies have embraced a zero-sum approach, seemingly preferring a world divided into winners and losers. Given the many significant challenges we face, does playing the zero-sum game cause more harm than good? And, if so, how do we move beyond it? This book is the third in a series of books authored by members of the Environmental Law Collaborative (ELC), an affiliation of environmental law professors that began in 2011. In it, the authors tackle the origins and meanings of zero-sum frameworks and assess their implications for natural resource and environmental protection. The authors have different angles on the usefulness and limitations of zero-sum framing, but all go beyond the oversimplified view that environmental protection always imposes a dead loss on some other societal value.

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