Overlapping International Disaster Law Approaches with International Environmental Law Regimes to Address Latent Ecological Disaster

Anastasia Telesetsky, University of Idaho College of Law


International Disaster Law (IDL) and International Environmental Law (JEL) have developed as two separate subsets of public international law. IDL has until recently focused largely on developing effective disaster relief laws, while JEL has focused on addressing long-term transboundary environmental crises. This Article argues that the connection between the two legal regimes has been undervalued. Using the ecological case study of excess nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus), this Article posits that almost forty years of international legal efforts have failed to reverse the current trend of increasing coastal "dead zones" due to the existence of a form of "bystander effect" whereby nations wait for other nations to react first. To avoid this bystander effect, this Article suggests that the implementation of IEL obligations would benefit from taking an IDL approach by refraining land-based pollution as a disaster risk reduction priority and by applying disaster risk reduction approaches to the problem. While there will continue to be great demand for disaster relief activities, investing in legal approaches that reduce community vulnerability to longterm ecological hazards may avoid future ecological disasters.