Skip to content
Open global navigation

Cambridge University Press

AcademicLocation selectorSearch toggleMain navigation toggle

Your Cart


You have 0 items in your cart.

Register Sign in Wishlist

Nature's Trust
Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age

$115.00 (C)

  • Date Published: September 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521195133
Average user rating
(1 review)

$115.00 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • 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. This book 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.

    • This book discusses law in the broader context of ecology, culture, and economics, but is accessible to a general educated and professional audience
    • Presents a new sovereign trust paradigm for environmental law, this book integrates tribal sovereigns into a governance framework
    • Addresses a multitude of problems within agencies, this book should be of interest to officials in local, state and federal agencies who want to reform their agencies' practices
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "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, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy and former dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

    “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 fulfill 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 Earth 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, author of Storms of My Grandchildren and former director, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies

    "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, the University of Texas at Austin School of Law; and co-author of The Miner's Canary

    "Nonetheless, as jacket blurbs by Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and Ross Gelbspan express quite well, Nature’s Trust is both ambitious and original. For anyone interested in using the legal system to prod action, Wood has made a major contribution."
    Rena Steinzor, Science Magazine

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews


    I first became aware of Mary Woods work during my junior year of high school. She was giving a speech about the public trust doctrine to an audience of over 10,000 people. The event drew citizens from all sectors of society: scientists, teachers, parents, activists, and students from all levels of education. It was obvious the public wanted to become educated about the inadequacy of the current state of environmental protection. But for the average citizen it is nearly impossible to comprehend environmental law. This book was written for those who wish to know why they should be dissatisfied with a government that believes protecting the environment is a matter of discretion, not obligation. Albert Einstein once said, If you cant explain it simply, you dont understand it well enough. By that rationale, it is easy to see why Mary Wood is an authority on the public trust doctrine in environmental law. The book is written in plain English--her writing reflects the manner in which laws and policies should be written. She is skillfully able to digest the complexities of modern environmental law for the layman without being patronizing. Readers will find that Natures Trust reads like a narrative while educating like a textbook. It finds the perfect balance between two drastically different styles of writing. The accessibility of this book may be deceptive. However, accessibility does not come at the expense of substance. Praise by the likes of James Hansen, Ross Gelbspan, Gerald Torres, and Bill McKibben can attest to that fact. Natures Trust is so powerful because Professor Wood is able to connect with the reader on an emotional level. She inspires us to reflect on the moral obligation that we have to future generations. She guides the readers through the necessary process of becoming upset, frustrated, and discouraged by the current state of the environmental legal system. But she isnt content to abandon the reader in a state of despair. Many people are already upset with the way our government handles environmental protection. But she helps us to develop a logical basis for our dissatisfaction built upon longstanding notions of governmental obligation. By defining the breach of duty of our government as a trustee--whose fiduciary responsibility is to protect the ecological res--she is able to offer us a way to restore governmental accountability. She helps us realize that there exists a means by which we can bring real change. This book is the catalyst that is needed for a paradigm shift with respect to the way which we understand the duty that is owed to us by our government. It is impossible not to be moved while reading this book.

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521195133
    • length: 462 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.78kg
    • contains: 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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 façade
    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.

  • Author

    Mary Christina Wood, University of Oregon, School of Law
    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.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website, your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Back to top

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.

Cancel Delete

Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.