Sustainability is the Answer - Now What Was the Question?

2 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2012

See all articles by Rebecca M. Bratspies

Rebecca M. Bratspies

City University of New York - School of Law

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Date Written: October 29, 2012


This short essay for the Environmental Law Collaborative explores law's role in framing discussions of sustainability. It suggests that we need to think of sustainability not as a set of practices but as set of organizing principles by which to restructure the core, yet largely invisible functions of production and transportation that precede the consumption on which so much current sustainability rhetoric focuses. To change these less visible aspects of society, we need to mobilize the power of the law as a framing institution. We can, if we choose, arrange our infrastructure and define our markets to make sustainable outcomes their unavoidable and inevitable result. It means that by posing our questions differently we might begin the process of uncovering hidden possibilities, thereby paving the way for a new understanding of the sustainability challenge, and opening space for new responses.

Keywords: sustainability, systems, climate change, law, framing

Suggested Citation

Bratspies, Rebecca M., Sustainability is the Answer - Now What Was the Question? (October 29, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Rebecca M. Bratspies (Contact Author)

City University of New York - School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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