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Book Review

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Cannon’s debut book, Environment in the Balance, sets itself an ambitious task: to overcome this division by showing that environmental law, much as it may appear dry and dull, is deeply infused with conflicts over values. Cannon’s project is to reveal the green ghost in the gray machine, the soul of disagreement that lends shape to arguments that may otherwise seem aridly technical. He does this by carefully reading thirty major Supreme Court decisions in environmental law and teasing out the differences in worldview that animate the Justices’ reasoning – divisions that are not simply over abstract legal questions, but rather reflect divergent views of the natural world and the human place in it.

This Review places Cannon’s arguments at the cusp of a new era in environmental law, politics, and culture that is also a new era of planetary history: the Anthropocene, or “age of humanity.” In the Anthropocene, people have become a force, arguably the force, in the development of the planet. From atmospheric chemistry and global weather patterns to biodiversity, the world we inhabit is increasingly the world we are creating. This suite of changes has great meaning for understanding environmental law.


Environmental Law | Law


Environment in the Balance: The Green Movement and the Supreme Court by Jonathan Z. Cannon, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015, pp. 374, $45.00.