Fat and Fried: Linking Land Use Law, The Risks of Obesity, and Climate Change

Dan Tarlock


Among the major immediate risks faced by the United States are the increasing rate of obesity of its population and a wide range of potential adverse climate change impacts such as the rising of sea levels, which could result in more extreme flooding and droughts.


2 This article draws from the growing interest in the law and policy of disaster response and risk response3 generated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Its focus is the use of law to induce the adaptation of societal behavior to minimize the long-term costs of the two serious risks4 rather than on post-disaster relief. Specifically, this article examines how one set of policy instruments, land use planning and regulation, can help to minimize the costs of these inevitable risks. Obesity and global climate change are here, although their specific impacts are still hard to predict. The basic argument is that spatial planning may help mitigate the two risks and the costs associated with them, even though spatial planning and land use regulation are relatively limited policy instruments to deal with these maddeningly complex social and political problems for two primary reasons. First, the law faces structural barriers; in the main, land use law is designed to produce a “one-off” solution to mitigate a nuisance-like use rather than to produce long-term substantive results. Second, efforts to induce behavioral change challenge the deep-seated value of freedom to live where and how one wants as the quote from the director of disaster relief in Kansas indicates. Nonetheless, the effort is worth making as there are clear links between land use regulation and these two risks.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/pjephl.2008.14


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