Rethinking Sustainability to Meet the Climate Change Challenge

Rethinking Sustainability to Meet the Climate Change Challenge
Jessica Owley and Keith Hirokawa
Release Date

Has the concept of sustainability as we know it reached the end of its useful life? It is a term that means many things to many people, but it has been a positive driving force across all levels of society in a broad-based effort—either through laws and treaties or voluntary action—to keep our planet and our people healthy. But none of those efforts have managed to prevent climate change. It’s a reality that’s here to stay, and it’s bigger than we would have imagined even 20 years ago.

This volume presents a collection of papers from experts in the field articulating a wide range of thoughtful ways in which various conceptions of sustainability need to be re-examined, refined, or articulated in greater detail to address these challenges. The chapters reflect the kind of thoughtful and sophisticated thinking that is needed to accelerate the transition to sustainability in the face of a changing climate. As editors Jessica Owley and Keith Hirokawa note, one of the main challenges is the need for a better understanding of the issues and developing the proper means of communicating them.

The chapter authors demonstrate that sustainability provides a creative space within which to develop ideas and proposals to further social, economic, and environmental goals at the same time. Many propose new or modified laws and policies. All of them contribute to a constructive and helpful discussion about how to address what is easily one of the most difficult and important questions facing the planet.

Rethinking Sustainability will be helpful to a wide range of audiences—lawyers and policymakers as well as students and their teachers. 

About the Author

Jessica Owley is a professor of environmental law, federal Indian law, property, and land conservation at the SUNY Buffalo Law School. She received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California-Berkeley and her J.D. from Berkeley Law. Her research examines land conservation and climate change with a particular focus on private lands and conservation easements. Before entering academia, she practiced in the Land Use and Environment Law group at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Prior to private practice, Prof. Owley clerked for Hon. Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Hon. Dean D. Pregerson of the Central District of California..

Keith Hirokawa is an associate professor at Albany Law School where he teaches courses involving environmental and natural resources law, land use planning, property law, and jurisprudence. His scholarship has explored convergences in ecology, ethics, economics, and law, with particular attention given to local environmental law, ecosystem services policy, watershed management, and environmental impact analysis. He has authored dozens of professional and scholarly articles and books in these areas, including Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature (2014) and Greening Local Government (2012, co-edited with Dean Patricia Salkin).

Book Reviews

“There is no better critique of sustainable development in print today than these 14 essays by scholars of the Environmental Law Collaborative. Their discerning insights expose inadequacies inherent in how the diverse and competing concepts of sustainable development can cope with climate disruptions. Has the law and policy associated with sustainable development become a maladaptation, increasing socio-economic and ecological vulnerability? Can resilience theory, precaution, ecosystem management, eco-consumerism, or emergent community values infuse sustainability with needed rigor?

As society sheds its ignorance about the unmanageable harms associated with heating Earth beyond the 2 degrees Celsius target set in 2009, will legal reforms among local governments or in non-traditional patterns, induce evolution of a new regime that becomes sustainable? If these accessible and crisply written essays do not seek to answer such questions, they succeed in leaving the reader better able to reflect upon them. The work is provocative and timely. Profs. Owley and Hirokawa have deftly edited a well annotated book that is essential in assessing whether sustainable development can address—or survive—the problems of climate disruption.”Nicholas A. Robinson, Gilbert & Sarah Kerlin Professor of Environmental Law Emeritus, Pace University School of Law