The Role of Law in Engineering 'Natural' Disasters

19 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2013 Last revised: 5 May 2015

Date Written: February 20, 2013

Abstract

What people perceive as “natural disasters” typically take place when extractive industries operate at levels high enough that the ecological systems from which they draw resources lose their ability to buffer transient shocks, whether of environmental or technological origin. Legal institutions whose purpose it is to prevent such disasters from taking place may in fact encourage them, insofar as they must also broker competing demands for greater access to resources. Legal institutions may adapt to ecological instability in the wake of such disasters, “learning” from the experience more or less successfully depending on the conditions under which the disaster takes place. This paper will develop these ideas in the context of a number of noteworthy disasters, including the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon in 2010.

Lo que se percibe como “desastres naturales” suelen ocurrir cuando las industrias extractivas operan a niveles tan elevados que los sistemas ecológicos de los que extraen los recursos pierden su capacidad para amortiguar las sacudidas transitorias, sean éstas de origen ambiental o tecnológico. Las instituciones legales, cuya finalidad es prevenir que ocurran estos desastres, puede en realidad promoverlos, desde el momento en que tienen que negociar las demandas de las partes interesadas en obtener un mayor acceso a los recursos. Las instituciones legales pueden adaptarse a la inestabilidad ecológica como consecuencia de tales catástrofes, "aprendiendo" de la experiencia de forma más o menos exitosa, dependiendo de las condiciones bajo las que ocurre el desastre. Este artículo va a desarrollar estas ideas en el contexto de una serie de desastres destacados, entre ellos el hundimiento de la plataforma petrolífera Deepwater Horizon en 2010.

Keywords: Law, history, disasters, law and society, legal history, California, United States, Derecho, historia, desastres, derecho y sociedad, historia del derecho, California, Estados Unidos

Suggested Citation

McEvoy, Arthur F., The Role of Law in Engineering 'Natural' Disasters (February 20, 2013). Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2221241

Arthur F. McEvoy (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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