Unfortunately, conflicts are all too familiar in the modern world. Global conflicts claim and threaten the lives of many. Personal conflicts strike at the heart of families and friendships. Courts, workplaces, communities, the political process, mediating institutions, businesses, and media all seem fraught with conflicts that can unnecessarily divide rather than unite.
Without a doubt, there is a certain amount of conflict that is helpful, and even vitally necessary, to any society. Without it, there is no healthy debate about things that matter, a diminished ability to reach compromises that may represent the best of competing ideas, and less opportunity to fight for those values that are held most dear. Many people accomplish some of the things about which they are most proud when a conflict of some kind moves them out of complacency and toward action on that which they believe to be good or important. However, when it comes to addressing and resolving conflicts, there are, quite simply, good ways and bad ways to do so.
The particular context of environmental law and policy making is one that is rife with conflict in the boardroom, in the courtroom, and in legislative chambers. The existence of conflicts — and the intractable nature of many of those conflicts — is particularly virulent and rampant in environmental law for many reasons.
Into this world came Laudato Si’. Pope Francis released this eagerly anticipated encyclical on June 18, 2015. Much discussion of Laudato Si’ in the popular press speaks of it narrowly as a “climate change” encyclical or, slightly more broadly, as an “environmental” encyclical. Certainly, it is both of those things. But, in its pages lies a much broader analysis of the world’s political, social, economic, physical, and spiritual state. As part of this discourse on the state of humanity, the question of conflicts naturally arises, as conflicts often define important aspects of human life. However, a careful reading of Laudato Si’ also reveals a roadmap for the ways in which contemporary conflicts and disputes over environmental issues can best be managed and resolved. What follows is an exploration of what Laudato Si’ ahs to say about the resolution of environmental disputes.
Lucia A. Silecchia, Conflicts and Laudato Si’: Ten Principles for Environmental Dispute Resolution, 33 J. Land Use & Envtl. L. 61 (2017).