Ecological collapse, regulatory failure, and bad governance: An assessment of regression and recommended responses

Authors: Robyn Bartel*, University of New England, Australia
Topics: Political Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: legal geography, environmental law, governance, environmental crime,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Environmental crime is often considered separately to ‘real’ crime, and environmental law not ‘really’ law. Regulatory failure is common, and evident in Australia in land clearing, water theft, waste dumping, biosecurity and the live export trade. Similar poor performance is demonstrated in other jurisdictions and there is regression of environmental protection and controls internationally. However, the experience of environmental law may not be singular and it may be the proverbial canary in the coalmine. In Australia, scrutiny of the performance of the banking and financial service industries, the health sector, and education providers has revealed pervasive poor performance of compliance and corporate governance. A comparative analysis of regulatory oversight and regression in several public policy areas reveals some common causes, including declining norm agreement, increasing fracturing of self from public interest, and stark imbalances of knowledge and power. Such factors are hardly new, however traditional solutions are unlikely to be successful, given their patchy track records. Lessons learned from moral economy perspectives (e.g. Scott, 1976) and the experience of ‘educating upwards’ are evaluated for their potential applicability. The deployment of ‘weapons of the weak’ (Scott, 1985) and ‘upward ethical leadership’ (Uhl-Bien & Carsten, 2007) for improved governance more generally are recommended.


Scott, J. C. (1976). The Moral Economy of the Peasant. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Scott, J. C. (1985). Weapons of the Weak Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Uhl-Bien, M., & Carsten, M. (2007). Being ethical when the boss is not. Organizational Dynamics, 36(2), 187-201.

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