Saturday, November 30, 2013

#334 / Should Trees Have Standing?

In 1972, in an article published in the University of Southern California Law Review, 45 S. Cal. L. Rev. 450 (1972), Christopher D. Stone asked "Should Trees Have Standing?" In legal parlance, "standing" means a right to appear in court to advance one's interests. Trees didn't have standing then, and they still don't have standing now. 

Maybe they should!

I have been trying to introduce the "should trees have standing?" topic to students in one of the Legal Studies classes I am teaching at UCSC this Quarter, and I assigned Stone's article. That article, by the way, is a pretty unusual one to have appeared in a law review, since it focuses not only on the "legalities" of trying to provide enforceable legal rights to various "natural objects," like rivers and forests, but speaks also about what Stone calls the "psychic and socio-psychic" aspects of doing so.

Here is Stone, addressing that topic: 

To be able to get away from the view that Nature is a collection of useful senseless objects is ... deeply involved in the development of our abilities to love....

"Love" is not a word found frequently in the legal literature. 

But if we love Nature, as most of us think we do, maybe it's time to let Nature assert its rights in court. And if Nature ever gets that chance, make no mistake, Nature will be asserting it rights against US!

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