Nature’s Trust: a new paradigm

[This is a review I posted at Good Reads, March 11, 2018; see here. This post is about the book Nature’s Trust by Dr. Mary Wood, a distinguished law professor at the University of Oregon.]

In everyone’s life, there are only a few books that you can reflect on and say it changed your world view, and by doing so, irrevocably changed your life and how you make decisions on the topics it discussed. This is one of those books….

For most of my adult life, I had felt ill at ease with how my white, privileged, technically advanced culture related to the environment. As a young boy, I felt drawn to the Native American relationship to Nature, which seemed like a dream to which the white man could only aspire. I recall a quote that a favorite high school teacher had on his wall: “To the red man, everything is alive; to the white man, everything is dead…and if it tries to live, he kills it.” This black humor is an apt metaphor for the jurisprudential challenge that Professor Wood tackles head on in this paradigm shattering work. For what she is attempting is nothing less than breathing life into the dead culture our current judiciary has produced.

I must confess that I have not yet finished this dense, scholarly book; but such a volume is not to be rushed through, but gradually absorbed for its deep lessons. But even in the first half the author has fully demolished the illusion that our environmental law is protecting us; rather, she proves the regulatory approach to protecting the environment has utterly failed, and a new paradigm must replace it.

That paradigm is one which includes the natural environment where it should be: at the center of our world, and at the center of its protection. In other words, the natural world deserves to hold rights under our legal system, just as much as human beings, rights which must be enforceable in law.

I look forward to finishing reading this remarkable book, and discovering more about the shape of this new paradigm….which, in fact, I am looking forward to helping to bring about for the rest of my adult life. For this kind of paradigm change will take generations…and it is high time we got started on the work.

Rick Casey
instructor in environmental economics,
Front Range Community College

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