The land ethic, articulated by Aldo Leopold, is a biocentric, holistic
approach to environmental ethics that values ecosystems in their own right. The
1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment placed environmental problems
on the international agenda, but since that time the international community has
had limited success in dealing with environmental challenges. Many of the
shortcomings of global approaches to the environment can be linked to the weak
ethical underpinnings of environmental law and policy, stemming from the fact
that international law fails to take into account the intrinsic value of nature.
Integrating environmental policy formulation with the land ethic would remedy
the inadequacies of current international law and policy, which are based on the
Westphalian state system.
This essay examines the land ethic in the contexts of just war theory, economic liberalism, and international environmental law, offering a new outlook for the behavior of states in matters affecting ecosystems.
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