Gaming Rhetoric and the Complicated Story of Local Identity

AuthorJonathan Rosenbloom and Keith Hirokawa
Chapter 5
Gaming Rhetoric and
the Complicated Story
of Local Identity
Jonathan Rosenbloom and Keith Hirokawa
I. Introduction
is chapter suggests that local communities do not frame or view decisions
or the decisionmaking process t hrough the lens of zero-sum games. In order
to have a zero-sum game, there need to be at least t wo distinct interests com-
peting over the same scarce res ource, typically pitted against each ot her, such
as the economy and environment.1 While zero-sum games are often used
to describe local conicts (for example, bike lanes versus on-street surface
parking), we believe there is far more at work in local governance. Zero-sum
game explanations of local la nd use disputes dismiss and fail to account for
the important connections communities have with the land and how those
connections help form local decisionmaking and identity.
To more completely understand local decisionmaking and the limitations
of zero-sum gaming, it is necessary to recogni ze the importance of place and
how it is often a reection of community values. In a previous art icle, Insider
Environmental Law, we laid the foundation for understanding sense of place
1. As characterized by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, two-person zero-sum games involve
one actor winning what the other actor loses. See John von Neumann, Zur eorie der Gesellschafts-
spiele, in 100 M A 295-320 (1928); further developed by J  N
 O M, T T  G  E B (Princeton Univ. Press
1944); see also Tinne Ho Kjeldsen, John von Neumann’s Conception of the Minimax eorem: A Journey
rough Dierent Mathematical Contexts, 56 A. H. E S. 39, 41-42 (2001).
Authors’ Note: We thank the attendees at the Environmental Law Collaborative (2016),
Asilomar Conference Center, Monterey Peninsula, California. We also thank Drake
Law School student Victoria Millet and Albany Law student Andrew Hersey for their
outstanding research assistance. A special thank you to Sarah Krako and Melissa
Powers for compiling and editing the written documents for this book. Being a part of
the Environmental Law Collaborative remains one of our most gratifying and thought-
provoking experiences in legal academia.
92 Beyond Zero-Sum Environmentalism
and its relevance to local governance of the environment.2 e thrust of the
argument is that place matters:
Studying, ana lyzing, a nd assessing loca l government is an exercise in u nder-
standing why someth ing happened here. If local govern ment theories were
more resolved to understanding w hat constitutes “loca l,” we might be less
vain about the dist ractions that drag us into outsider discu ssions about gover-
nance and less apt to const ruct a break between local g overnment and its local
traditions, cultures, and insights.3
Distinguishing b etween the “insider” and “outsider” perspectives of a com-
munity helps to illustrate the sharp distinctions between the t ypes of values
that are relevant to the environmental, social, and economic decisionmaking
processes at dierent levels of governance. Local decisions are driven by the
situatedness of local knowledge. Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan states: “Feeling for
place is inuenced by knowledge, by knowing such ba sic facts as whether
the place is natural or man-made and whether it is relatively large or small.”4
Being situated means that indiv iduals and communities exper ience their sur-
roundings in a particu lar way—one that produces and reects distinct, very
locali zed know ledge.5 Importantly, this knowledge is seldom shared with
others who come from outside. Tuan states: “e visitor’s evaluation of envi-
ronment is essentially aesthetic. It is an outsider’s view. e outsider judges
by appearance, by some formal canon of beauty. A special eort is requi red to
empathize with the lives a nd values of the inhabitants.”6 e outsider may be
interacti ng loca lly, but he or she nonethele ss objecti es, wit hout the benet
and context of an insider.
e zero-sum framework embodies a n outsider’s view. Zero-sum framing
looks for divisions between environmental, social, and economic interests
2. In 2017, we described and articulated the importance of “Insider Environmental Law” at Vermont Law
School (VLS). We are drafting a book to more completely detail this approach. Our VLS presentation
may be viewed at: Hot Topics: Insider Environmental Law, YT (Aug. 4, 2017),
com/watch?v=j6S0PqTEilQ. See also Keith H. Hirokawa, Environmental Law From the Inside: Local
Perspective, Local Potential, 47 ELR 11048 (Dec. 2017).
3. Jonathan Rosenbloom & Keith H. Hirokawa, Insider Environmental Law, 49 E. L. ____ (2019)
(transcript on le with the authors).
4. Y-F T, S  P: T P  E 32 (Univ. of Minnesota Press 1977).
5. See also Keith Aoki, Spaced Invaders: Critical Geography, the ird World in International Law and
Critical Race eory, 45 V. L. Rev. 913, 918 (2000):
[s]pacial distance or proximity can be used to create anities among people as well as to cre-
ate and maintain social distance, such as the distance between those living in decaying areas
of our inner cities and those in the posh suburbs ringing those cities. In turn, posh suburbs,
high-tech oce parks, deteriorated inner cities and dense urban centers produce a sense of
place for their inhabitants that are often extremely divergent.
(Internal citation omitted.)
6. Tuan, supra note 4, at 64.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT