Mapping, Modeling, and the Fragmentation of Environmental Law
University of California - Hastings College of the Law
March 1, 2012
In the past forty years, environmental researchers have achieved major advances in electronic mapping and spatially explicit, computer-based simulation modeling. Those advances have turned quantitative spatial analysis — that is, quantitative analysis of data coded to specific geographic locations — into one of the primary modes of environmental research. Researchers now routinely use spatial analysis to explore environmental trends, diagnose problems, discover causal relationships, predict possible futures, and test policy options. At a more fundamental level, these technologies and an associated field of theory are transforming how researchers conceptualize environmental systems.
Advances in spatial analysis have had modest impacts upon the practice of environmental law, little impact on environmental law’s structure or theory, and minimal impact on environmental law research. However, the potential legal implications of these advances are profound. By focusing on several of environmental law’s traditional core debates, and by using urban development as a central example, this Article explores those implications. It shows that spatial analysis can change the problems environmental law addresses, the regulatory instruments environmental law uses, the entities law empowers to address those problems, and the methodologies of environmental law research.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 63
Keywords: environmental law, spatial analysis, geographic information systems, land use
Date posted: March 2, 2012 ; Last revised: December 3, 2013