The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World

"Humans today have a deeply troubled relationship with other animals and species," writes David R. Boyd in his fascinating new treatise, The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution that Could Save the World. The problem, he continues, is that we "purport to love animals" yet "inflict pain and suffering upon them." And, he says, it's not just animals that we abuse. Rivers, forests and entire ecosystems are threatened by human activity. To counter these mistreatments, environmental lawyers from around the globe are seeking to enact laws that better protect nature, and according to Boyd, they're making great strides.

He opens with an overview of scientists' recent investigations into animal consciousness, which show that many species--including dogs, octopuses and dolphins--possess far greater capacities for both compassion and pain than previously thought. He then explains how these insights can--and already have--assisted lawmakers in extending habeas corpus laws to protect animals. His overview of the United States' Endangered Species Act is also eye-opening. Here he delves into its legal history and the profound philosophical shifts it forced in thinking about the natural world.

Despite the heady subject matter, The Rights of Nature is a breeze to read. Boyd punctuates his chapters with case studies that illustrate how legal decisions have affected specific animals and ecosystems. It's in these pages that Boyd's work is especially affecting. Well-researched and written for the layman, this stirring look at the history and current state of environmental lawmaking demonstrates how powerful--and inspiring--legislation can be. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

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