Hastings Environmental Law Journal


Tara Pierce


This paper will examine the required paradigm shift in socio-legal philosophical thinking and the shared values between the Public Trust Doctrine and Earth Law. These legal frameworks were born from different social narratives, which greatly impacted their ability to serve the public and the Earth Community. Exploring each legal framework’s origins and current practice will illuminate how the Public Trust Doctrine can bridge the gap between Western legal systems toward Earth Law—a holistic approach to justice in the context of history, society, ecology, and humanity’s relationship with our planet. Earth Law focuses on the roles of beings within their ecosystem, and the requirements for ecosystems to flourish. At its core, Earth Law is a practice that acknowledges that everything is connected. Results of Earth Law includes rights for rivers, granting personhood to mountains, and acknowledging colonial wrongdoings. Given today’s environmental devastation, Earth Law challenges practitioners to have incorporate healing practices. This paradigm shift will provide the necessary philosophy and legal tools to address climate change in a timely, adequate, and equitable manner. For this paradigm shift to occur, we must take control of our narrative—currently, Western binary thinking separates humanity from its habitat, Nature. Environmentalists are consistently faced with owls-versus-jobs style arguments. This false dichotomy has created modern environmental laws that permit inequitable environmental destruction, none more dramatic than climate change. By pushing a core Western legal doctrine, the Public Trust Doctrine, deeper into its own logic and values, we find Earth Law.