Implementing the Precautionary Principle
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Implementing the Precautionary Principle

Perspectives and Prospects

Edited by Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and René von Schomberg

This challenging book takes a broad and thought-provoking look at the precautionary principle and its implementation, or potential implementation, in a number of fields. In particular, it explores the challenges faced by public decision-making processes when applying the precautionary principle, including its role in risk management and risk assessment. Frameworks for improved decision-making are considered, followed by a detailed analysis of prospective applications of the precautionary principle in a number of emerging fields including: nanotechnology, climate change, natural resource management and public health policy. The analysis is both coherent and interdisciplinary, employing perspectives from law, the social sciences and public policy with a view to improving both the legitimacy and effectiveness of public policy at national and international levels.
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Chapter 11: A Long and Winding Road? Precaution from Principle to Practice in Biodiversity Conservation

Rosie Cooney


Rosie Cooney INTRODUCTION Biodiversity includes the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems on earth,1 but here for convenience I focus on species loss and ecosystem degradation. At least five times since life evolved on Earth, mass extinction events have taken place, involving the extinction of vast numbers of species (Futuyma, 1998). Perhaps over 95 per cent of all species that have lived on earth are now extinct (Rosenzweig, 1995), and a ‘background’ level of extinction is to be expected regardless of human activities (Macleod, 2002). Today, however, relevant indices point to our being on the cusp of the sixth great extinction event, this one distinguished by the fact that it is caused primarily by human activities (Leakey and Lewin, 1995). Around one in eight of the world’s bird species, a quarter of its mammals, and one in three amphibians are threatened with extinction (Baillie, Hilton-Taylor and Stuart, 2004). The extent and rapidity of anthropogenically-induced recent and threatened extinctions far outstrips the rate of evolution of new species and threatens fundamental ecosystem processes which maintain all life on earth. Many would view the extinction of other species as alarming per se. However, threats to biodiversity are also threats to humans: to the provision of materials and services for life, health, security and wellbeing. Biodiversity provides food, medicine, fuel and building materials. Biodiverse ecosystems help filter water, control flooding, regulate climate, decompose waste, generate soil and pollinate crops. They provide aesthetic, recreational and spiritual benefits, and are fundamental in soil...

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