Contested delineations

The article argues that environmental politics can easily destabilize and overburden law, economy and science, in an attempt to unify, grasp, predict and control an environment that is not amenable to these operations. Yet, shifting the burden of collective decision- making on environmental matters to law, poses its own risks, for democratic politics, for the environment, however defined, and for law itself. The temptation to solve problems once and for all, and the temptation for decision-makers to create clarity by means of apparently simple rules is understandable. But the impact of these rules on actual decision-making has to be continuously monitored. If the legal system becomes too dominant, the space where interests and perspectives can meet will be reduced. With that space gone, the give and take in politics and economics will not disappear, but become less visible. At the same time, the pressure to change the law is likely to increase. Thus, in the long run, overstretching the law as a means of steering and control might undermine not only politics and planning, but the law itself.

Beunen, R. & K. Van Assche (2013) Contested delineations. Planning, law and the governance of protected areas. Environment and Planning A, 45 (6): 1285-1301.