In Bill Moyers’ last official broadcast, he interviewed Mary Christina Wood, a legal scholar and the author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age. (See the interview here: http://www.alternet.org/environment/bill-moyers-ingenious-project-save-our-climate-using-ancient-legal-theory).
Wood is taking part in building up a new legal framework for a crusade against global warming “called atmospheric trust litigation. It takes the fate of the Earth into the courts, arguing that the planet’s atmosphere–its air, water, land, plants and animals–are the responsibility of government, held in its trust to insure the survival of all generations to come.”
The environmental laws passed in the 1970’s were full of loopholes for big corporations, so now, Wood says, “the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job.”
Wood continues: “[The public trust doctrine] says that government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival. And so a trust means that one entity or person manages a certain wealth, an endowment so to speak, for the benefit of others. And in the case of the public trust, the beneficiaries are the present and future generations of citizens. So it is a statement of, in essence, public property rights that have been known since Roman times.”
Moyer concludes the broadcast by saying: “Mary Christina Wood reminds us that democracy, too is a public trust–a reciprocal agreement between generations to keep it in good repair and pass it along.”
“In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices, ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.'”