Legal Call to Arms to Remedy Environmental and Climate Ills

January 7, 2014 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Protection of Species, United States, Daily Email Recap

Legal Call to Arms to Remedy Environmental and Climate Ills


University of Oregon law professor Mary Wood says environmental laws in the United States are simply not working. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains why she believes a new strategy and robust judicial intervention are needed to protect nature and the climate.

by fen montaigne

Mary Christina Wood has an unsparing view of the state of environmental protection in the United States today: On a host of fronts – from climate change, to mountaintop removal mining, to the nationwide fracking boom – the federal and state governments are failing to protect ecosystems and resources vital to current and future generations.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360 senior editor Fen Montaigne, Wood discusses why she believes the judiciary needs to step in to force the executive and legislative branches to protect natural resources that are part of the “public trust.” And as she does in her recently released book, Nature’s Trust, she also explains why she supports ongoing litigation to reduce carbon emissions under a related doctrine to protect the “atmospheric trust.”

“The political branches of government are doing next to nothing to address this crisis, which is threatening the future survival and welfare of the youth of this nation and future generations” says Wood. “Across the board, on the state, local, and federal level the agencies are not using the statutes to protect nature – they’re using statutes to permit damage to the environment.”

Yale Environment 360: Can you describe the concept of the “atmospheric trust,” and why you think it needs to be applied to slow climate change?

Mary Wood: The atmospheric trust approach simply applies the public trust doctrine to the atmosphere, which is not much of a leap because the purpose of the public trust is to protect critical resources that the public relies on for its very survival and welfare. The atmosphere certainly qualifies. So the litigation just takes this well known, ages-old principle that government is trustee of our crucial resources and applies it to the atmosphere and to the climate in particular.

To read the full interview, please click here:

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