Environmental law has failed us all. As ecosystems collapse across the globe and the climate crisis intensifies, environmental agencies worldwide use their authority to permit the very harm that they are supposed to prevent. Growing numbers of citizens now realize they must act before it is too late.
Nature's Trust exposes what is wrong with environmental law and offers transformational change based on the public trust doctrine. An ancient and enduring principle, the trust doctrine asserts public property rights to crucial resources. Its core logic compels government, as trustee, to protect natural inheritance such as air and water for all humanity. Propelled by populist impulses and democratic imperatives, the public trust surfaces at epic times in history as a manifest human right. But until now it has lacked the precision necessary for citizens, government employees, legislators, and judges to fully safeguard the natural resources we rely on for survival and prosperity. The Nature's Trust approach empowers citizens worldwide to protect their inalienable ecological rights for generations to come.
Part I. Environmental Law: Hospice for a Dying Planet?
1. 'You are doing a great job'
2. The great legal experiment
3. The politics of discretion
4. Behind the grand facade
5. The administrative tyranny over nature
Part II. The People's Natural Trust
6. The inalienable attribute of sovereignty
7. The ecological res
8. Fiduciary standards of protection and restoration
9. From bureaucrats to trustees
10. Beyond borders: shared ecology and the duties of sovereign co-tenant trustees
11. Nature's justice: the role of the courts
Part III. The Public Trust and the Great Turning
12. Nature's trust and the heart of humanity
13. Using Earth's interest, not its principal
14. The public trust and private property rights
15. The new world: a planetary trust
Mary Christina Wood is the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Oregon School of Law. She has taught law for more than twenty years, specializing in property law, environmental law and federal Indian law. She founded the school's top-ranked Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program and initiated several of the program's interdisciplinary research projects, including the Native Environmental Sovereignty Project and the Food Resiliency Project. She is the coauthor of a textbook on natural resources law and another on public trust law. She has also authored many articles and book chapters on the federal Indian trust obligation, wildlife law and climate crisis.
"What Silent Spring did for our perception of the environment, Nature's Trust should do for our perception of environmental protection. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this book calls for a revolution in environmental policy and law – now, before it is too late. It is simply brilliant."
– James Gustave Speth, former Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
"The gutting of our environmental laws now generates ominous and grotesque distortions in our natural world. This, as Mary Wood so vividly points out, reflects the deeper pollution of our regulatory agencies caused by the influence of big industries. Assembling an impressive range of legal precedents, Wood challenges our government to fulfil its age-old responsibility as 'trustee' of public property. Nature's Trust is an eloquent plea to revive a fundamental pillar of civilized law to ensure the survival of a coherent civilization."
– Ross Gelbspan, author of The Heat is On and Boiling Point
"At pivotal points in western history, when the failures of government became unconscionable and unbearable, thinkers have come forward with new, catalyzing principles that changed the world. I believe that Nature's Trust is the book we have been waiting for, a new paradigm that can correct the course of history."
– Kathleen Dean Moore, co-editor of Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril
"We face, in climate change, the worst crisis in human history. So it's a good thing we have such a powerful mind rethinking our understanding of legal obligation – and human responsibility."
– Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and The End of Nature
"Our children are trusting us to protect their Earth. Our governments are on trial for failing that trust. This is the trial that should rivet the public's attention, for all life depends on its outcome. This book puts the people – all of us – in the jury box."
– James Hansen, former Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and author of Storms of My Grandchildren
"It is a rare opportunity to read a book that causes us to reimagine the landscape of law, democracy and the environment. Nature's Trust does that. Here, Professor Wood challenges us with a thorough investigation of what it will take to really protect the environment coupled with a profound assessment of the legitimate foundations of government. She demonstrates that the principles of trusteeship animate our relationship to nature as well as to the institutions of the state. These trust duties are the very slate upon which our constitution is written. This is a beautiful, profound, and important book and anyone who cares about our environmental and democratic future needs to read it."
– Gerald Torres, Marc and Beth Goldberg Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Cornell Law School; Bryant Smith Chair in Law, University of Texas, Austin School of Law, and co-author of The Miner's Canary