The Burgeoning Volume of Environmental Law Scholarship

I’ve had the impression that, over the time I’ve been following environmental law, there’s been a dramatic increase in the amount of scholarship in the field.  I did a search of the Westlaw JLR database for  (“environmental regulation” “air pollution” “water pollution” “endangered species”) with data restrictions.  This search is only an approximation but it should capture a high proportion of environmental articles and not too many others.  To the extent there are errors, they don’t seem to be correlated with an article’s date.

The trend appears to be quite striking:

1975-1980  165

1980-1985  817

1985-1990  2418

1990-1995  6806

1995-2000 9058

Since Westlaw will only count up to 10,000 documents for a search, the post-2000 data is broken into smaller periods:

2000-2003 6017

2004-2007 6831

2008-2010 5635 (note that this is a shorter period than the previous two).

I’m sure that a more careful study would provide more accuracy and perhaps reveal some trends within subfields.  But these rough results clearly confirm my intuition that environmental law scholarship is expanding rapidly.

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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “The Burgeoning Volume of Environmental Law Scholarship”

  1. The question is whether this expansion is relatively high or low compared to other disciplines within legal scholarship. If we found similar results in other fields, I would conclude not so much that environmental law scholarship is increasing rapidly, but rather that law review articles are increasing rapidly. If we found similar results in, say, labor law, then it would really be that law review articles are increasing rapidly, since Congress and the Supremes have done their best to eliminate it entirely.

  2. It would obviously better to have more data. As a quick check, I tried “NLRA” from 1970-1980 and 1990-2000, and the number of JLR cites went down. The same was true for “fourth amendment” over the same two time periods. So it doesn’t seem to be true that *everything* went up over the relevant time periods. This is all rather slapdash, however, and I hope someone does a more serious study.

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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