Foundations of Insider Environmental Law
22 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2018 Last revised: 8 Oct 2019
Date Written: August 1, 2018
Our essay questions how we understand local governance of the environment. From the perspective of those outside a city, the city can be understood through an external perception of what is “good” or “bad” about the city. One might visit a city to witness the location of natural wonders, architectural or artistic features, and famous marketplaces, or events such as concerts, marches, and parades. The visitor can say, “I was there” or “I have seen that.” However, there is something missed by the outsider that is captured when an individual and a community declare, “this place is us.” This perspective, what we call the “insider’s perspective,” prioritizes the knowledge that emerges from the insider’s place-based viewpoint, including local values, relationships, myths, and mysteries. The insider perspective illuminates the attachment between local community and environmental features, and, in a meaningful way, helps to explain why that attachment is translated into local regulation of the environment. This view of local environmental regulation is “Insider Environmental Law.” It is the result of a community’s engagement with a particular local environment, the development of that community’s identity in a specific environmental context, and even the community’s survival and flourishing against the challenges and opportunities that are felt locally. By distinguishing an insider’s from an outsider’s perspective, an analysis of local governance can view local regulation in a way more consistent with local communities and provide a better understanding of why communities do what they do. In the essay, we explore classic rationales explaining local governance, including representation, democracy, participation, and a commitment to good and efficient governance. Relying on objective, uniformly practiced governance values, the rationales explain some aspects of local governance. In our view, however, the decentralization theories miss an important point about local governance. Specifically, there is no space reserved for the “here” — no space for the consideration of the manner in which place plays a role in the development of community identity and values and how that translates into local regulation.
Keywords: Place, Place-Based, Environment, Environmental Law, Local, State, Local Environmental Law, Decentralization
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