Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date



This essay reviews Professor Jonathan Cannon’s Environment in the Balance. Cannon’s book admirably analyzes the Supreme Court’s uptake of, or refusal of, the key commitments of the environmental-law revolution of the early 1970s. In some areas the Court has adapted old doctrines, such as Standing and Commerce, to accommodate ecological insights; in other areas, such as Property, it has used older doctrines to restrain the transformative effects of environmental law. After surveying Cannon’s argument, this review diagnoses the historical moment that has made the ideological division that Cannon surveys especially salient: a time of stalled legislation, political deadlock, and highly contested regulatory and judicial interpretation. This analysis, however, does not limit the interest of Cannon’s analysis to this political moment. Rather, Cannon’s integration of legal and cultural analysis has great promise for the Anthropocene, the dawning era when human decisions and values will be among the most important forces shaping the planet. In the future, it will be necessary to think of environmental law as both reflecting and producing ideas of the value and meaning of the natural world. Cannon’s analysis is an excellent starting point for an Anthropocene approach.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Environmental law, Environmentalism, Environmental policy