Environmental Law, Public Health, and the Values Conundrum

Mich. J. Envtl & Admin. L. (Forthcoming)

U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 410

13 Pages Posted: 17 May 2014 Last revised: 12 Nov 2014

See all articles by David M. Uhlmann

David M. Uhlmann

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: May 1, 2014


In September 2013, the University of Michigan Law School hosted a conference entitled “Environmental Law and Public Health” to explore the myriad ways that environmental protection promotes public health and sustainable communities. We began the conference with a panel discussion focused on environmental values and asking whether we have the right balance in our environmental laws between public health concerns and our broader obligation to maintain a healthy planet. The extent to which we emphasize public health, biodiversity, and ecological concerns has significant practical implications. We might regulate toxic substances differently if our concern is human exposure rather than protecting other species. We might set different water quality standards if our goal is fishable and swimmable streams rather than promoting healthy ecosystems for all aquatic life. We might prefer different climate change mitigation efforts if our goal is safeguarding cities and towns from extreme weather rather than preventing the loss of habitat for polar bears in the Arctic Circle or the acidification of the oceans, although eventually the melting of polar ice and the loss of carbon sinks in the oceans will have dramatic public health ramifications. Ultimately, how we make those choices may speak to our broader environmental values and the extent to which we are human-centric, bio-centric, and/or eco-centric in our approach. This essay provides an overview of the perspectives on these questions offered at the conference and in subsequent articles in the Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law by Professors Tracy Bach, Hari M. Osofsky, and Zygmunt J.B. Plater.

Keywords: Environmental Law and Public Health

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Uhlmann, David M., Environmental Law, Public Health, and the Values Conundrum (May 1, 2014). Mich. J. Envtl & Admin. L. (Forthcoming), U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 410, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2437858

David M. Uhlmann (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
(734) 764-7362 (Phone)

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