SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


Environmental law is pervaded by myths—i.e., assumptions that are inaccurate, misleading, or false. These myths arise in various contexts, ranging from wetlands mitigation schemes and pollution credit trading programs to legal regimes premised on the concept of sustainability. This Article explores several myths of environmental law, their origins, and their roles. While political reasons explain in part the creation and prevalence of these myths, more is at work behind these myths than mere politics or failures to implement the law. The myths of environmental law facilitate the management of ecologically complex systems by providing a reductionist account of them. Beyond that, these myths serve important expressive functions in communicating social attitudes and values, legitimating social institutions and practices, and maintaining social solidarity. Awareness of myth’s roles in environmental law can enable society to address legal shortcomings that are thereby revealed and to reject or replace those myths that undermine environmental law’s goals.