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Environmental Policy in the Anthropocene

Environmentalists are increasingly confronted with two emerging ideas about the natural world: that there is no balance of nature, and that nature cannot be easily separated, if at all, from human action. Many are now embracing a new reality—known as the “Anthropocene”—reflecting the magnitude of human influences over the planet.

The Anthropocene implies a new way of thinking about environmental problems. No longer can environmental problems be thought of as simply the consequence of human violations on nature’s balance, nor can they be solved by simply separating the natural world from humans. Instead, environmental problems become questions of how to resolve competing human demands over an ever-changing natural world.

What institutions best allow us to resolve those competing human demands over a dynamic natural world? What policies will allow us to account for dynamic nature and dynamic human action in this human-dominated era? By bringing together scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, this volume aims to foster an engaging discussion of environmental policy in the Anthropocene—as well as the future of environmentalism.

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Table of Contents

Environmentalism Without Romance” by Shawn Regan

Designing Institutions for the Anthropocene” by James L. Huffman

Environmental Policy for the Anthropocene: Information, Incentives, and Effective Institutions” by Robert K. Fleck and F. Andrew Hanssen

Ecological Dynamism, Economic Dynamism, and Co-Evolution: Implications for Urban Land Use Planning” by Mark Pennington

Dynamic Environmentalism and Adaptive Management: Legal Obstacles and Opportunities” by Jonathan H. Adler

Sailing the Sagebrush Sea” by Gregg Simonds

Ecosystem Services: What are the Public Policy Implications?” by R. David Simpson

How Humans Spare Nature” by Linus Blomqvist


With the advent of a new epoch—the Anthropocene, where humans dramatically shape the functioning of ecosystems—a new approach to environmental policy is required. Gone are many of the standard constructs of the preceding era, such as ‘balance of nature’ and ‘equilibrium ecology.’ The chapters in this volume begin an examination of what types of constructs may be appropriate for this new era, and what associated policies might follow.

—Roger A. Sedjo
Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future

Written By
  • Shawn Regan
    Shawn Regan
    • Vice President of Research

    Shawn Regan is a research fellow and vice president of research at PERC.  He is the executive editor of PERC Reports.

  • Jonathan Adler
    Jonathan Adler
    • Senior Fellow

    PERC Senior Fellow Jonathan Adler is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio.

  • R. David Simpson
    • Lone Mountain Fellow

    R. David Simpson is the former director of Ecosystem Economic Studies in the National Center for Environmental Economics at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and was a 2018 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow.

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