Nature's Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age

February 4, 2014
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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On this call, Mary Wood, professor at the University of Oregon School of Law and founding director of its Environmental Natural Resources Law program, discussed her new book, Nature's Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age. Professor Wood reviewed what is wrong with current environmental law and offer proposals for 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. Professor Wood spoke directly to the interface of science and regulation, including the importance of the advancement of the precautionary approach through the public trust principle. Joseph Guth, PhD, JD, former legal director of the Science and Environmental Health Network and Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, then participated in a discussion with Professor Wood about environmental law, future generations work and the intersection with the commons.

Featured Speakers 

MaryWoodMary Christina Wood, JD, is the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and faculty director of the school's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. She teaches property law, natural resources law, public trust law and federal Indian law; she has also taught public lands law, wildlife law and hazardous waste law. She is the founding director of the school's nationally acclaimed Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program and is faculty leader of the Program's Conservation Trust Project, Sustainable Land Use Project, Native Environmental Sovereignty Project, and Food Resilience Project. Professor Wood has published extensively on climate crisis, natural resources, and native law issues. She originated the approach called Atmospheric Trust Litigation to hold governments worldwide accountable for reducing carbon pollution within their jurisdictions, and her research is being used in cases and petitions brought on behalf of children and youth throughout the United States and in other countries. She is a frequent speaker on global warming issues and has received national and international attention for her sovereign trust approach to global climate policy.

Joseph Guth, JD, PhD, is a member of the New York State Bar, has a law degree from New York University, a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Madison, Wisconsin, and an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Guth has worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City, doing both litigation of Clean Water Act citizen's suits and toxic chemicals regulatory policy advocacy; as a litigator in private law firms in New York in the areas of environmental torts, intellectual property and products liability; and as a vice president of intellectual property for Chiron Corporation, a biotechnology company in California. The central goal of Dr. Guth's work is the transformation of the law so that it will promote preservation of the earth rather than accept environmental destruction as a byproduct of economic growth. Key areas that this work draws from include property law, the public trust doctrine, law of the commons, ecological economics and precautionary principle theory.

CarolynRaffenspergerCarolyn Raffensperger, JD, is executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. Ms Raffensperger is co-editor of Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy published by MIT Press (2006) and Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle, published by Island Press (1999). Together, these volumes are the most comprehensive exploration to date of the history, theory and implementation of the precautionary principle. Ms Raffensperger coined the term "ecological medicine" to encompass the broad notions that both health and healing are entwined with the natural world. She has served on editorial review boards for several environmental and sustainable agriculture journals and on USEPA and National Research Council committees. She wrote a bimonthly column for the Environmental Law Institute's journal Environmental Forum from 1999 until 2008.

The call was moderated by Steve Heilig, MPH, CHE director of Public Health & Education, and director of Public Health & Education, San Francisco Medical Society