The New Law of Geology: Rights, Responsibilities, and Geosystem Services

May 2022
ELR 10380
Keith H. Hirokawa

Humans are inescapably dependent upon geological processes and structures. Many of these interactions are direct, such as when we cultivate the soil or mine the earth. However, the terms of our interaction with geology are usually invisible and unacknowledged. Although the relationships are complex, a firm understanding of the environment and our dependence on it cannot ignore the interconnections between earth’s systems, including subsurface geology, vegetation, oceans, and atmosphere. This Article suggests serious consideration of geosystem services, an effort to identify the value to humans of processes occurring throughout the geosystem for the services—not just the goods—that they provide. It proposes a legal regime of geosystem services, and illustrates the immense value of geosystem benefits that are at risk when they are not expressly included in decisionmaking processes.

Keith H. Hirokawa is Associate Dean of Research and Scholarship and Professor of Law, Albany Law School.

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