Standing for trees, redux

The Sunday Boston Globe includes this lengthy piece by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow on the revival of arguments first made in the 1970s that nature should be granted legal rights and perhaps even standing in court. USC law professor Chris Stone argued in a celebrated 1972 article that places like the Mineral King valley should be allowed to stand as plaintiffs in their own right, with the help of human attorneys or guardians ad litem. He managed to convince Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, but not a majority of the Court. Now the Center for Earth Jurisprudence and Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund are raising Stone’s arguments for intrinsic rights for nature and broad standing to allow defense of those rights, anew.

In Tuhus-Dubrow’s article, Stone points out that forcing people to demonstrate standing on the basis of their intent to visit a site obscures what for many environmental advocates is the fundamental issue, the intrinsic importance of nature. University of Maryland philosopher Mark Sagoff responds that “nature” is not a single thing, and entities within nature are constantly in conflict with one another. In his view,“Granting rights to nature would just be a distraction from the policy progress we’ve made.”

Read Tuhus-Dubrow’s piece, Stone’s article (published at 45 S. Cal. L. Rev. 450 (1972), available through Hein OnLine for those who have access), and the Supreme Court’s decision in Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972), and draw your own conclusions.

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