In Search of the Holy Grail of Environmental Law: A Rule to Solve the Problem

29 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2005

See all articles by Bruce Pardy

Bruce Pardy

Queen's University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2005


There is widespread resistance to the use of generally applicable rules in environmental law. Such rules are thought impossible; and if not impossible, then certainly undesirable. This consensus is one of the main obstacles to progress in ecosystem protection, as it prevents environmental law from becoming a rigorous, coherent, predictable discipline, and from being able to stem the tide of ecological deterioration. Modern environmental law consists of nebulous, discretionary concepts and lists of narrow prohibitions for specific situations. Neither is based upon an abstract definition of sustainability in ecological terms. Consequently, the size of the human footprint upon ecosystems continues to grow. If environmental matters were to be governed by a single, generally applicable rule, what would it say? In this article, the author develops a rule that defines an environmental bottom line and respects established legal norms. The first step identifies an ecological limit for society as a whole. The second articulates a rule that proscribes individual behaviour, such that the combined impact of all individual actions would be within the limit identified in the first step.

Keywords: Environmental Law, Sustainable Development, Sustainability, Ecosystem Management, Ecological Harm, Nonequilibrium

JEL Classification: K32, K33, Q28

Suggested Citation

Pardy, Bruce, In Search of the Holy Grail of Environmental Law: A Rule to Solve the Problem (2005). McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law & Policy, Vol. 1, p. 29, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Bruce Pardy (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
613-533-6000 Ext. 77570 (Phone)
613-533-6509 (Fax)


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