Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy

From Urban and Industrial Environments

Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy

Edited by Nancy Myers and Carolyn Raffensperger





The precautionary principle calls for taking action against threatened harm to people and ecosystems even in the absence of full scientific certainty. The rationale is that modern technologies and human activities can inflict long-term, global-scale environmental damage and that conclusive scientific evidence of such damage may be available too late to avert it. The precautionary principle asks whether harm can be prevented instead of assessing degrees of "acceptable" risk. This book provides a toolkit for applying precautionary concepts to reshape environmental policies at all levels. Its compendium of regulatory options, detailed examples, wide-ranging case studies, and theoretical background provides both citizens and policymakers with the basis for acting on any issue in any situation—whether it's pesticide use at local schools or a new international regulatory system for chemicals.

Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy describes the analytical and ethical bases of the precautionary principle as well as practical options for implementing it. It provides a "precautionary checklist" that can serve as a springboard for discussion and decisions. And it offers a variety of case studies that show the precautionary principle in action—from elk and cattle farming to marine fisheries, from the protection of indigenous cultures against bioprospecting to the restoration of the federal court system as a safety net for people harmed by products and chemicals. A hands-on interdisciplinary guide, the book demonstrates the advantages of a precautionary approach and addresses criticisms that have been leveled against it.

For updates and more information on the precautionary principle at work, visit by clicking on the link to the left.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262134583 400 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 illus.


$26.00 X ISBN: 9780262633239 400 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 illus.


Nancy Myers

Nancy J. Myers is Communications Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Carolyn Raffensperger

Carolyn Raffensperger is an environmental lawyer and the founding director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.


  • A unique and comprehensive synthesis and compendium of heretofore disparate writings on and critiques of the precautionary principle, incorporating both European and American legal, political, and cultural traditions and perspectives. Theoretically sound and practically oriented, this book will be a must-read for policy analysts and policymakers, environmentalists, enlightened industrialists, citizens and activists, and students of government and regulation.

    Nicholas A. Ashford

    Professor of Technology and Policy, MIT, and coauthor of Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics: Reclaiming the Environmental Agenda

  • Finally—a book that exposes the precautionary principle for what it really is: a rational, practical, fair-minded, powerful, science-based approach for making the world a safer, more livable place. From playgrounds in Texas to courtrooms in Wisconsin, from elk farms and marine fisheries to hospitals and architectural firms, here are portraits of precaution in action. All together, they serve as a template for environmental transformation. Bravo!

    Sandra Steingraber

    Ithaca College, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment