cover image The Ecology of Law: Toward a Legal System in Tune with Nature and Community

The Ecology of Law: Toward a Legal System in Tune with Nature and Community

Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei. Berrett-Koehler, $27.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-62656-206-6

The modern-day legal system is seldom tied to current unsustainable ecological practices. Yet in this thoughtful treatise, co-authors Capra and Mattei show how tenets of western jurisprudence, such as private property rights and eminent domain, have eradicated older precepts. Natural resources were once considered "commons" that belonged to no one, to be shared by everyone. This older way of thinking gradually disappeared as community-based justice was replaced by codified laws serving elites, as in ancient Rome. American law, inherited largely from the English common law tradition, developed under the influence of Enlightenment-era concepts favoring mercantilism and industrialization%E2%80%94practices that approach the natural world as something to be subdued and exploited. The authors propose a philosophy and jurisprudence that is deeply radical%E2%80%94upending centuries of Western tradition and culture%E2%80%94but possibly crucial to solving looming environmental problems. If there is a flaw to their book, it is perhaps their faith (expressed almost without doubt) that there exists a reasonable possibility of the world jettisoning global capitalism in order to "decentralize power to small scale communities in tune with the laws of ecology." Simply reading about Capra and Mattei's vision is a paradigm-changing experience. Realizing it would require a seemingly impossible, but perhaps crucial, global transformation. (Nov.)