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The introductory chapter of this book reviews the religious, ethical, and philosophical underpinnings of environmental law. Judeo-Christian religions, Islam, and Buddhism all contain guidance about how to interact with the environment. Although early treaties reflect a belief that humans had the right to use nature to their benefit without any restrictions, later policies aim “to reconcile competing social and economic policies in order to obtain equitable sharing of resources.” The chapter discusses features of the economic system that present challenges to preserving the environment, including tragedy of the commons and competitive disadvantage. Finally, the article describes international law sources of environmental law, including the Rio Declaration. This chapter concludes that environmental strategies “emerge from religious and philosophical beliefs but also must be based on scientific and economic realities that require an integrated and interdisciplinary approach.”

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-62; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2013-62

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