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Lessons from preventive medicine for the precautionary principle and ecosystem health

Calver, M.C. (2000) Lessons from preventive medicine for the precautionary principle and ecosystem health. Ecosystem Health, 6 (2). pp. 99-107.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1526-0992.2000.00010.x
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Abstract

Preventive medicine establishes clear links between diseases and their causes, therefore illness can be averted or minimized by preventive measures. If this information is widely dispersed through community education, it empowers individuals to undertake decisions likely to improve their health. Significant cost savings are often possible because preventive measures may be cheaper than curative ones. In the case of ecosystem health, the precautionary principle is analogous to preventive medicine because it argues for anticipatory action to protect the environment from possible serious or irreversible harm. The precautionary principle empowers people by involving them in environmental decisions and has a clear need for community education to encourage awareness and participation. It may also save society money in the long term by avoiding the costs of ecological rehabilitation. However, the precautionary principle is fundamentally different from preventive medicine because it argues that action to protect the environment should be undertaken if a causal relationship is only suspected, not established. Thus, the analogy of preventive medicine and the precautionary principle is valuable in highlighting this critical difference and suggests that the precautionary principle will always be deeply contentious because of its focus on uncertainty.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Copyright: (c) Blackwell Science
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/871
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