Over three decades ago, as a professor at the University of Southern California, Christopher Stone challenged the historic legal premise that nature and trees are treated as objects in the eyes of the law and therefore without rights. He recognized that for nature to have rights under the law, the fundamental basis of our legal systems would need to be rewritten.
Should Trees Have Standing? became a rallying point for the new environmental movement and food for a worldwide debate on the basic nature of legal rights. The debate reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1972, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund had no standing to protect the Mineral King Valley from development because the valley itself had no rights. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. At the time, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was writing a preface to the next edition of the Southern California Law Review. Stone’s original essay “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects” (“Trees”) was included in the journal and read by Justice Douglas. Justice Douglas expressed a now famous dissenting judgement based on Stone’s arguments.
Now, in the 35th anniversary edition of this remarkably influential book, Christopher D. Stone has updated his original thesis and explores the impact his ideas have had on the courts, the academy, and society as a whole. At the heart of the book is an eminently sensible, legally sound, and compelling argument that the environment should be granted legal rights.
For the new edition, Stone explores a variety of recent cases and current events–and related topics such as climate change and protecting the oceans–providing a thoughtful survey of the past and an insightful glimpse at the future of the environmental movement. This enduring work continues to serve as the definitive statement as to why trees, oceans, animals, and the environment as a whole should be bestowed with legal rights, so that the voiceless elements in nature are protected for future generations.