This article argues that bottom-up, polycentric developments within national and international environmental and human rights law present potent alternatives to traditional top-down solutions, especially in relation to problems that require urgent legal action such as climate change. The article does not suggest that traditional solutions are no longer called for. Rather, it promotes action from both angles.
By way of background, the article briefly examines what “law” is, how law is more and more frequently developed at the local level with public participation (i.e. from the “bottom up”) as well as the pros and cons of such development. The article describes the recognized interface between severe environmental problems and human rights issues. It then presents the findings of the author’s original research into how human rights and climate change issues are attacked in innovative ways and from the bottom up in four select American cities and in London, England.
Many scholarly articles have written lamenting the lack of scaled-up action within both human rights and, especially, environmental law. This article presents new value by setting forth guidelines and principles for bottom-up approaches to legal problems in these areas. Scholars, policymakers and legal practitioners may benefit from this research.