Paper pub. date
January 2009
ISBN 9780870715679 (paperback)
6 x 9 inches, 208 pages. B&W photographs. Index.

The Environmental Justice

William O. Douglas and American Conservation

Adam M. Sowards

From the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, American conservation politics underwent a transformation — and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was at the heart of this shift toward modern environmentalism. The Environmental Justice explores how Douglas, inspired by his youthful experiences hiking in the Pacific Northwest, eventually used his influence to reshape American conservation thought, politics, and law.

One of the nation’s most passionate conservationists, Douglas wrote eloquent testimonies to the value of wilderness and society’s increasing need for it, both in his popular books and in his heartfelt judicial opinions celebrating nature and condemning those who would destroy it. He led public protests in favor of wilderness. He worked tirelessly to secure stronger legal protections for the environment, coordinating with a national network of conservationists and policymakers.

As a sitting Supreme Court Justice, Douglas brought both prestige and the enormous symbolic power of legal authority to conservation crusades at a time when the nation's laws did not favor environmental protection. He understood the need for national solutions that included public involvement and protections of minority interests; the issues were nationally important and the forces against preservation were strong. In myriad situations Douglas promoted democratic action for conservation, public monitoring of government and business activities, and stronger laws to insure environmental and political integrity.

Douglas’s passion for nature helped to define the modern environmental movement. For the first time, The Environmental Justice tells this story.

Of related interest: Nature's Justice: Writings of William O. Douglas, now available in paperback.

About the author

Adam M. Sowards is a professor of history at the University of Idaho. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Arizona State University and is the author of United States West Coast: An Environmental History.

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