Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wingspread statement on the Precautionary Priniciple: tenth anniversary

From a great blog, Effect Measure, a bit of history about the precautionary principle. Many have criticized the precautionary principle for vagueness and other flaws, but at the worst it's a significant starting point. And it's especially important in discussions of climate change adaptation, since we are often required to make choices with a lack of complete scientific knowledge:

This week sees the tenth anniversary of an important event in the American environmental movement, although few people know it (even some who were there had forgotten the date). In late January, 1998, a group of 32 environmental scientists, activists and scholars sat down together at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin to hash out a consensus statement on The Precautionary Principle. After a grueling three days, the statement was put into final form on January 25 (just in time to see my beloved Green Bay Packers lose the Superbowl. Is history repeating itself? Aargh!).In the ten years since Wingspread, the Precautionary Principle has itself spread its wings. It has developed into a nuanced and flexible paradigm that has affected the thinking of both the public and the scientific community.

Image of precautionary-based decision model from the Massachussetts Precautionary Principle Project, via the Science and Environmental Health Network.

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