Subsidiarity in Environmental Issues: Nuances and Shifts

  • Florencio R. Riguera The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.


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.
Jul 18, 2018
How to Cite
RIGUERA, Florencio R.. Subsidiarity in Environmental Issues: Nuances and Shifts. European Journal of Natural Sciences and Medicine, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 2, p. 17-24, july 2018. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 sep. 2018. doi: