This afternoon, at the U.N. Global Climate Change Summit, President Obama declared, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”
This reality has long been on the mind of one of our very own legal Ducks. Indeed, Professor Mary Wood is one of the leading legal experts who are fighting climate change in the courtroom. Professor Wood created a legal strategy to protect the atmosphere, better known as the Public Trust Doctrine. The doctrine derives from English Common Law and states that the government holds in trust natural resources essential to our survival. Specifically, the government should be held liable if it fails to preserve these resources for the benefit of future generations.
AtmQSpheric Trust Litigations (ATL) have been initiated throughout the country on behalf of youth to compel reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and counter the negative impact of climate change. Though these lawsuits have led to mixed results, one thing is certain: the Public Trust Doctrine is a revolutionary legal doctrine that is giving our generation, and the generations to come, a chance to do something about climate change.
I chose Oregon Law in part for its small collegiate environment. I wanted to be more than a number; I wanted to get to know my peers and professors. But I was far from realizing that I would join a community that fosters innovation and creative thinking, a place that exposes its students to legal theories that may change the world.
If you’d like to learn more about Professor Wood’s efforts to protect the atmosphere, check this recent episode of Bill Moyers.