Earth, Air, Water and Fire: The Classical Elements Confront Land and Energy

36 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2012

See all articles by Steven Ferrey

Steven Ferrey

Suffolk University Law School

Date Written: 2012


For thousands of years, the classical theory, which was considered the best science of the time and was observed my most cultures and religions of the world, held that there were four basic elements from which everything in life was constructed: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. This classical theory anchored Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese religions, as well as Greek philosophy. From these classical elements, all matter was derived. From the time of Aristotle to relatively recent times, this theory persisted. These classical elements were thought to be at the core of alchemy in Medieval times.

This article transposes this alchemy to present iteration, examining the legal interrelationship of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Historically, there was always physical and legal linkage between land and energy. This article examines the legal fabric, as to which are the dependent and independent variables in complex “chicken and egg” relationships: Earth and Water: With fresh water supply becoming scarcer and less than 1% of all the Earth’s water being fresh water and more than half of that fresh 1% located within just six of the world’s 200 nations, excluding the US; Earth and Air: Traditionally, society derived energy from the Earth; however with recent regulatory and technological changes, energy is now derived kinetically from the air; Earth and Fire: Energy use, power, automobiles, sprawled suburban land-use patterns. This article examines legal issues of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Air Act, NEPA, and land-use regulation.

Suggested Citation

Ferrey, Steven, Earth, Air, Water and Fire: The Classical Elements Confront Land and Energy (2012). Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, Vol. 27, p. 259, 2012; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 12-50. Available at SSRN:

Steven Ferrey (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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