The challenging background context for much of the discussion and cogitation in the panels and pages of this conference is the unfortunate fact that environmental protection law in virtually all its manifestations is currently faring rather poorly in the public policy arenas of national government. From the public health hazards of residual substances in consumer goods and human breast milk to the mighty troubles of human-caused climate disruption, many of the most significant structures of societal governance are locked in political and financial dysfunctions and impasses. Given the conference’s goal to “explore more deeply the relationship between environmental protection and public health and how it should inform our efforts to become better stewards of the environment,” this present essay carries an assignment to address the relationship between human-centric values (including public health concerns) on the one hand, and nature-centric (or “ecocentric,” or “biocentric”) values on the other. Should wise and fitting societal policies of the day give primacy to concerns for human health and welfare, or to the far more diffuse and intricate concerns and values represented by the natural laws and complex creatures and ecosystems coming to us from three billion years of evolving (animate/ carbon-based) life on Earth
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