Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Environmental Law in the Big (and small) Spatial Data Era

Outside the world of law, environmental academics and professionals spend a ton of time analyzing data coded to specific geographic locations.   Most environmental lawyers are at least somewhat aware of this phenomenon; most of us know, for example, that GISs and simulation models have become central to environmental work.  But we still tend to think of spatial analysis as a sideshow to our legal world.  I think that’s a mistake.  These technologies have become so prevalent, and so central to other environmental disciplines, that we really need to understand what they can and can’t do—and, importantly, how they might affect our work.

A few years ago, I began working on a paper designed to explore some of those implications.  It’s now out—finally—in the Utah Law Review, and it attempts to address the implications of spatial analysis for some of the grand old questions of environmental law.  Among other subjects, the paper discusses how technological changes could affect the environmental challenges for which regulation is possible, the extent to which we use planning and environmental trading systems to address those challenges, and the ways we allocate authority. The article also closes with a few words about what spatial analysis might mean for the methodologies of environmental law research.

Interested readers can find the paper here

- Dave Owen

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