Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris
Panos Merkouris The last few decades in human history have been characterised by unprecedented activity in scientific and technological research with breakthroughs seeming to occur at an ever increasing rate; industry and agriculture, as well as human consumption, have taken full advantage of these developments, with resulting unparalleled exploitation of every form of natural resource. Humanity seems to be moving in leaps and bounds, but it is not always clear in which direction. Henry David Thoreau, in the late 19th century, commenting on the harmful effects of human activity on the environment, said: ‘Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth’. At the beginning of the 21st century, not only have we already long taken to the skies, but we have also proved Thoreau correct. The gradual erosion of the ozone layer, for instance, is but one of the latest additions to an already long list of intrusions, which among others includes the pollution of seas, rivers and lakes, the extinction of fauna and flora (according to UN estimates, every day up to 150 species become extinct (Reuters, 2007)), desertification, rainforest clearance and overfishing. It is only natural that such a dire situation would cause a reaction, which in turn would be reflected in the field of international law. Thus, alongside more traditional areas of international law, international environmental law has developed greatly both in scope and importance. This is evidenced by the conclusion over recent years of many multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs)...