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Institutions are socially constructed relationships that form the foundations of societies. They shape contemporary environment-society interactions by framing the behavioral opportunities and expectations of individuals and organizations. Institutions explain, for example, when it is acceptable to take whales for human consumption and when it is not. They dictate how much of an ecosystem can be transformed for, say, a housing development, and still maintain its status as an ecosystem. Institutions can be formal (laws) or informal (the 50-year tradition of science, natural or economic, as an adjudicator of environmental policy decisions). They can be created by political fiat, or evolve over time through experience (such as private property rights). Thus they include the laws that are codified through the courts (common law), laws developed by ...

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