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Who Rules the Earth?How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives$
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Paul F. Steinberg

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199896615

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199896615.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 15 June 2021

Paper, Plastic, or Politics?

Paper, Plastic, or Politics?

11 (p.263) Paper, Plastic, or Politics?
Who Rules the Earth?

Paul F. Steinberg

Oxford University Press

It would seem only fair that an author who places a question in the title of a book should be expected to answer it directly. So who does rule the earth? The answer is Napoleon. He did, after all, leave behind a legal code that, as we saw in chapter 1, continues to guide the behavior of billions of people throughout the world today. And then there’s June Irwin, the country doctor who convinced the town of Hudson, Canada, to create rules banning nonessential pesticides and spawned a nationwide movement for change. And let’s not forget her foes in the pesticide industry, who raced across America passing state preemption rules that deny local communities the right to regulate these poisons. The earth is ruled by the Roman Emperor Justinian, who created the legal precedent for public access to beaches (discussed in chapter 2), as well as the real estate developer David Gottfried (chapter 3), co-inventor of the rulemaking system for green buildings known as LEED. The list most certainly includes Edmund Muskie and Philip Hart, the senators who spearheaded passage of the US Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act in the early 1970s. But it also includes José Delfín Duarte, whose local water association is empowered to decide how water resources are managed in his small corner of Costa Rica—an effort that required revising rules at local and national levels. Whether famous figures like Jean Monnet, founder of the European Union, or tenacious groups of citizens like Portland’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance, whether working at the level of empires or that of neighborhoods, the people who rule the earth are those who leave behind a legacy of rules that shape the actions and opportunities of generations to come. If we so choose—if we can put aside for a moment the “little things” we do for the earth, and think about the larger, lasting changes that result when people come together and rewrite the rules they live by—then the group of rulemakers also includes you and me.

Keywords:   Google Scholar, apartheid-era structures, boomerang effect, droughts, electoral systems, free-rider behavior, mercury, mining rules, policymakers, public transit, ruling coalitions, value creation

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