Realizing the Abstraction: Using Today’s Law to Reach Tomorrow’s Sustainability

37 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2011

See all articles by Jerrold A. Long

Jerrold A. Long

University of Idaho College of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2010


This article argues that sustainability – economic, social, and ecological – exists at a scale and level of abstraction that remains unapproachable by traditional institutional regimes, and that in order to achieve sustainable communities, we must identify workable mechanisms to give real legal effect to that abstraction. The mechanism proposed here is the classic and ubiquitous comprehensive land-use plan employed by communities across the country. These land-use plans often represent the only formal community effort to synchronize the competing purposes that exist within a community. However, in most states, comprehensive plans are not enforceable as law, leaving various government actors largely free to ignore the broader community goals and purposes that might allow a move toward a more sustainable place. But that is unnecessary. The single simple choice of giving legal effect to comprehensive plans would enable communities to identify and work toward a coherent vision of sustainable place.

Keywords: Sustainability, Land Use, Comprehensive Planning

Suggested Citation

Long, Jerrold A., Realizing the Abstraction: Using Today’s Law to Reach Tomorrow’s Sustainability (February 1, 2010). Idaho Law Review, Vol. 46, p. 341, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Jerrold A. Long (Contact Author)

University of Idaho College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 442321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321
United States

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