I am honored to introduce Ecology Law Quarterly’s special issue on environmental governance and technology. This dedicated volume focuses on the tension between rapidly advancing data technology and slower-moving law and policy adaptation. This issue could not come at a more important time, as we are in the midst of a historic transformation of our data capacities.
Environmental regulation invariably requires making decisions in the face of scientific uncertainty. However, making decisions in the near-absence of evidence—essentially, the most extreme uncertainty—is a special case because it most plainly exposes the defaults and preferences of those making the decisions, and because it may inspire creative ways of reducing the probability of error.
Technical innovation is ubiquitous in contemporary society and contributes to its extraordinarily dynamic character. Sometimes these innovations have significant effects on the environment or on human health. They may also stimulate efforts to develop second-order technologies to ameliorate those effects.
The history of the U.S. environmental justice movement reveals that successful campaigns are seldom waged solely through litigation. Instead, communities have employed litigation and administrative actions as part of a broader grassroots struggle to achieve short- and long-term change.