Elizabeth May

Published On


Page Range

pp. 33-42

Print Length

9 pages

Politics and Law

  • Elizabeth May (author)
In this chapter, May reviews the five decades of environmental law and policy since the first Earth Day, 1970, which prompted the United Nations to plan first international conference discussing the threats to our environment – the 1972 Stockholm Conference. Two threads are identified in the emergence and practice of environmental governance: the global North–South Divide (1970–1990), and the emergence of Global Corporate Rule (1990 onwards). Between 1970–1990, wealthy industrialized countries started to look at controlling pollution through science-based regulations and policy, confronting issues that were solved at local and regional scales, without recognizing the uneven burdens and responsibilities of global environmental degradation. Consequently, developing countries boycotted what was decried as the wealthy countries’ agenda, for pollution was not seen as a priority for nations unable to feed their people. The second thread identified by May highlights the tragic effect of trade on environmental policies, and the overlooked impact of the rise of corporate power in humanity’s failure to respond to the climate crisis. The 1990s saw the emergence of trade organizations who had the power to overturn environmental policies and treatises if they posed barriers to international trade. May believes we have failed to take appropriate action, but it is not too late. She calls for us to deconstruct global corporate rule and put the global survival before corporate greed.


Elizabeth May