This essay is an edited version of the 2014 Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law at Pace Law School, March 26, 2014.


It is a great honor and pleasure to deliver the Garrison lecture at the Pace University Law School, especially on an evening during which we have paid fitting tribute to the lives of two giants of environmental law and policy, Joe Sax, and David Sive. I chose the topic of ecosystem services for this auspicious occasion for three reasons and to answer three questions.

First, the path of ecosystem services as a theme in environmental law and policy spans my practice (1982-1994) and academic (1994-present) careers. The importance of nature to human well-being seems so obvious one would think it has been front and center in environmental law and policy since the beginning, but, until recently, that has not been the case. Lately, however, the ecosystem services framework has catapulted this theme into prominence, if not dominance, in environmental discourse.1 So my first question is, what accounts for the meteoric rise of the ecosystem services framework?

Second, the assent of the ecosystem services framework provides an example of how a growing network of researchers, academics, practitioners, and policy-makers can push an idea from the sidelines into the mainstream. The second question, thus, is, how did this network succeed in advancing ecosystem services from science to policy?

The last reason I chose ecosystem services is that the concept exemplifies the position I have staked out as a member of the radical middle. The radical middle isn't just about compromising between the left and the right -- or however you want to describe the “sides” in environmental policy -- it's about challenging their views and coming up with alternatives that work better. Ecosystem services does that, which is likely why, as I will discuss, it has begun to receive some pushback. So the third question is, what is the nature of that pushback, and is it justified?