Fourth-Generation Environmental Law: Integrationist and Multimodal

117 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2010 Last revised: 21 Sep 2011

See all articles by Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold

Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold

University of Louisville - Brandeis School of Law

Date Written: September 17, 2010


Institutional arrangements to protect the environment, manage natural resources, or regulate other aspects of society and the environment are not merely matters of optimal institutional design or choice. These arrangements result, at least in substantial part, from the evolution of interconnected social, legal, and ecological systems that are complex, dynamic, and adaptive. This article makes the case that environmental law is evolving to become more integrationist and multimodal: the use of multiple modes and methods of environmental protection, often across multiple scales, but in integrated ways. Integrated multimodality is a feature of much of social life. Building on generational analyses of environmental law and exploring complex problems at the intersection of climate change, land use, and water, this article contends that environmental law is undergoing pressure to adapt, because unimodal (“one-size-fits-all”) and fragmented approaches to environmental problems are proving inadequate. On one hand, a variety of psychological, socio-structural, political, economic, and normative forces converge to produce unimodal fragmentation. On the other hand, several phenomena – “wet growth” policies that integrate water quality and conservation into land use planning and regulation; watershed planning and management; and local climate change action plans – reflect the evolution of integrationist multimodality. These examples illustrate four nodes of connectivity by which multiple modes are integrated, and also suggest that integrationist and multimodal developments are occurring and will occur at the edges of environmental law. However, integrationist multimodality may not necessarily produce better environmental protection and therefore much be studied as an emerging phenomenon in environmental law that can help us to understand better the functions and limits of environmental law.

Keywords: environmental law, evolution of law, complex adaptive systems, integration, multimodality, panarchy, wet growth, watershed, climate change, land use, water, local, socio-legal evolution, ecology

JEL Classification: B25, H11, H77, K23, K32, K40, L22, 021, Q25, Q28, Q38, R11, R14, R52

Suggested Citation

Arnold, Craig (Tony) Anthony, Fourth-Generation Environmental Law: Integrationist and Multimodal (September 17, 2010). William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, Vol. 35, No. 3, p. 771, 2011, University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2011-07, Available at SSRN:

Craig (Tony) Anthony Arnold (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States
502-852-6388 (Phone)
502-852-0862 (Fax)


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics