precautionary principle
n. The principle that action should be taken to correct a problem as soon as there is evidence that harm may occur, not after the harm has already occurred.

Example Citation:
When Germany, for example, discovered in the 70's that its beloved forests were suddenly dying, there was not yet scientific proof that acid rain was the culprit. But the government acted to slash power-plant emissions anyway, citing the principle of Vorsorge, or "forecaring." Soon, Vorsorgeprinzip — the forecaring, or precautionary, principle — became an axiom in German environmental law.
—Michael Pollan, "Precautionary principle," The New York Times, December 9, 2001

Earliest Citation:
So far, the British Government has been much more reluctant to accept the link between pollution and marine animal diseases than have the Dutch, West German and Swedish governments. These states have adopted the precautionary principle with regard to pollution, according to which action should be taken not when damage has been proved to have occurred but if there are substantial grounds to fear that it may occur.
—"Death Among The Seals," The Times, August 26, 1988

Notes:
The adjective precautionary — having the foresight to protect against possible harm — has been a member in good standing of the lexicon since the middle of the 18th century. As the above citation suggests, the ideas behind the precautionary principle were in place in the 1970s, but it appears the actual phrase didn't make it into print until much later (see the earliest citation).

By the by, I could find no other hits for the word forecaring that appears in The New York Times citation, above.

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