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Managing wetlands sustainably as ecosystems : The contribution of the law (part 1)

Fisher, Douglas E. (2010) Managing wetlands sustainably as ecosystems : The contribution of the law (part 1). The Journal of Water Law, 21(1), pp. 19-32.

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Abstract

The ways in which a society set standards of behaviour and of conduct for its members vary hugely. For example, accepted practices, recognised customs, spiritually or morally inspired norms, judicially declared rules, executively formulated edicts, formal legislative enactments or constitutionally embedded rights and duties. Whatever form they assume, these standards are the artificial construction of the human mind. Accordingly the law - whatever its form - can do no more and no less than regulate or set standards for human behaviour, human conduct, and human decision-making. The law cannot regulate the environment. It can only regulate human activities that impact directly or indirectly upon the environment. This applies as much to wetlands as components of the environment as it does to any other components of the environment or the environment at large. The capacity of the law to protect the environment and therefore wetlands is thus totally dependent upon the capacity of the law to regulate human behaviour, human conduct and human decision-making. At the same time the law needs to reflect the specific nature, functions and locations of wetlands. A wetland is an ecosystem by itself; it comprises a range of ecosystems within it; and it is part of a wider set of ecosystems. Hence, the significant ecological functions performed by wetlands. Then there are the benefits flowing to humans from wetlands. These may be social, economic, cultural, aesthetic, or a combination of some or of all of these. It is a challenge for a society acting through its legal system to find the appropriate balance between these ecological and these human values. But that is what sustainability requires.The ways in which a society set standards of behaviour and of conduct for its members vary hugely. For example, accepted practices, recognised customs, spiritually or morally inspired norms, judicially declared rules, executively formulated edicts, formal legislative enactments or constitutionally embedded rights and duties. Whatever form they assume, these standards are the artificial construction of the human mind. Accordingly the law - whatever its form - can do no more and no less than regulate or set standards for human behaviour, human conduct, and human decision-making. The law cannot regulate the environment. It can only regulate human activities that impact directly or indirectly upon the environment. This applies as much to wetlands as components of the environment as it does to any other components of the environment or the environment at large. The capacity of the law to protect the environment and therefore wetlands is thus totally dependent upon the capacity of the law to regulate human behaviour, human conduct and human decision-making. At the same time the law needs to reflect the specific nature, functions and locations of wetlands. A wetland is an ecosystem by itself; it comprises a range of ecosystems within it; and it is part of a wider set of ecosystems. Hence, the significant ecological functions performed by wetlands. Then there are the benefits flowing to humans from wetlands. These may be social, economic, cultural, aesthetic, or a combination of some or of all of these. It is a challenge for a society acting through its legal system to find the appropriate balance between these ecological and these human values. But that is what sustainability requires.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 42889
Item Type: Journal Article
Additional URLs:
ISSN: 1478-5277
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 Lawtext Publishing Ltd.
Deposited On: 13 Jul 2011 23:07
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2012 21:16

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