Open Access

Subsidiarity in Environmental Issues: Nuances and Shifts


Although subsidiarity is dipolar, preference has been for the “lower” pole at the early stages of its development as a principle in Quadragesimo Anno: the “higher” administrative unit should act only if the “lower” unit could not deal with the issue. But in a generation, Pacem in Terris posited a nuance that put the preference on the “higher” unit. The capabilities of “higher” units could supersede the rights of “lower” units because the “on reserve” aid from “higher” units leads to more effectivity. Then, applying integral ecology, Laudato Si’ put the preference on the “higher” pole when issues are environmental in character. This stems from an understanding of complex and interconnected mechanisms in the interaction between populations and the environment. Because Nature has predetermined ways of acting and reacting to events like those caused by populations, Nature relays the impact of actions, such as environmental backlash, to other locations, sections, or later generations; it can also “slap back” at the local agents of events. Thus, the default option should be for the “higher” units to act when it comes to researching the complex interconnections of actions at the ecological level. But this option can lead to gaming the deliberations on public policy with questions of uncertainty or risk because valid understanding is needed to guide actions or policies. Perspectives broader than the local in terms of understanding and of values to be shared are needed.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Medicine, Clinical Medicine, Clinical Chemistry, Pharmacy, other