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date: 18 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how legal actors constantly negotiated the balance between individuals’ freedom to use their property and a community’s general welfare as they contemplated the human-nature relationship. It first explores adaptations of English common law in American colonies, when property law and nuisance law defined agriculture as a natural use demanding protection. It also considers alternative legal systems in Spanish colonies. It then turns to a discussion of natural law as an ideological foundation for the American Revolution and the emergence of public domain as a national issue. The chapter next considers how the nation’s move toward industrialization and more market-oriented agriculture prompted instrumental approaches that promoted dynamic capital more than traditional agrarian activities. In exploring legal decisions regarding resources as diverse as water, minerals, and wildlife, it contemplates growing inclinations toward greater ecological exploitation and the favoring concentrated capital. The chapter concludes with an assessment of US postwar environmental law, its identification of value in nature beyond economic utility, and its influence on international environmental law.

Keywords: law, environment, property rights, nuisance, public domain, industrialization, instrumentalism, legal history, environmental history, conservation, environmental law, nature

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