The precautionary principle refers to preventing harm by not doing anything that could have negative consequences.
It is best set out by using the proverb "better safe than sorry" or the medical motto, "first do no harm." The principle has strengths and weaknesses, and it is helpful to know the best way to use it and how we can apply it.
Even if we make the slightest change within a complex system, we risk far-reaching unintended consequences.
The Precautionary Principle reflects working with and within complex systems. It focuses on waiting for more complete information before risking the possibility of damage, especially if the possible impact would have a bigger negative impact. For example, invasive species can cause native species to become extinct, therefore extreme caution is advised.
The Precautionary Principle prompts us to question our intuitions about the right decisions. The principle was first applied to regulations in Germany for preventing air pollution. It consists of two core components in German environmental law:
When dealing with risks, we need to be aware of what we don't or can't know for sure.
How to use the Principle:
The Precautionary Principle is not applicable:
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