Skip to main content

The Making of Environmental Law

The unprecedented expansion in environmental regulation over the past thirty years—at all levels of government—signifies a transformation of our nation’s laws that is both palpable and encouraging. Environmental laws now affect almost everything we do, from the cars we drive and the places we live to the air we breathe and the water we drink. But while enormous strides have been made since the 1970s, gaps in the coverage, implementation, and enforcement of the existing laws still leave much work to be done.

In The Making of Environmental Law, Richard J. Lazarus offers a new interpretation of the past three decades of this area of the law, examining the legal, political, cultural, and scientific factors that have shaped—and sometimes hindered—the creation of pollution controls and natural resource management laws. He argues that in the future, environmental law must forge a more nuanced understanding of the uncertainties and trade-offs, as well as the better-organized political opposition that currently dominates the federal government. Lazarus is especially well equipped to tell this story, given his active involvement in many of the most significant moments in the history of environmental law as a litigator for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, an assistant to the Solicitor General, and a member of advisory boards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Ranging widely in his analysis, Lazarus not only explains why modern environmental law emerged when it did and how it has evolved, but also points to the ambiguities in our current situation. As the field of environmental law "grays" with middle age, Lazarus’s discussions of its history, the lessons learned from past legal reforms, and the challenges facing future lawmakers are both timely and invigorating.

334 pages | 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Earth Sciences: Environment

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society, Legal History


"This account of environmental law is rooted in the author’s expertise as a leading legal scholar in the area, augmented by serious attention to the work of political scientists and historians who have studied the development of environmental law. The Making of Environmental Law will fill a significant gap in the literature, providing an important reference for both environmental historians and legal scholars."

Daniel A. Farber, author of Eco-pragmatism: Making Sensible Environmental Decisions in an Uncertain World

"A must read for anyone who cares about how we best go about addressing environmental challenges of clean air, clean water, and global warming."

Carol M. Browner, former U.S. EPA Administrator

"This is a wonderful book. Not only does Lazarus elegantly and comprehensively recount the history of the law’s development over the past three decades, but he brings to the story a remarkably well-informed and sophisticated appreciation of how the political/legal system works. Having been in some of the trenches that he surveys, I can attest that he has got it just right."

Joseph L. Sax, author of Mountains without Handrails: Reflections on the National Parks

"There is no better way to understand the complex, multilayered world of modern environmental law than to retrace its history. Richard Lazarus has produced an engrossing account of the evolution of environmental law, weaving together the intellectual forces, constitutional constraints, political competition--and of course the uniquely challenging nature of environmental problems themselves--that have combined to produce the regulatory system we have today. Lazarus, who has been both a participant in and observer of the development of environmental law throughout his career, is uniquely qualified to provide this kind of synthesis. All future attempts to explain the emergence of modern American environmental law will have to start with this account."

Thomas W. Merrill

"A lively, elegant, and comprehensive account of how environmental law came to be, what makes it distinctive among legal institutions, why it has persisted, and its future prospects."

Jonathan Cannon | Environmental History

"Lazarus’s highly accessible and enjoyable book should be considered by anyone seeking an introduction to environmental law and policy for classroom use. . . .  [The Making of EnvironmentalLaw] provides a humbling but necessary guidebook for those who seek to re-situate environmentalism within the changing American political landscape."

Douglas A. Kysar | Political Science Quarterly

"Readers focusing on the legal scholarship will find much to like here, particularly the breezy way [Lazarus] renders what might otherwise be arcane jargon into engaging naratives about the past, present, and future of environmental law."

Craig W. Thomas | Perspectives on Politics

"Lazarus’s history of environmental law is a welcome relief from  . . . explicitly partisan perspectives on environmentalism. . . . He avoids a myopic academic focus on doctrinal developments and analyzes the decline in salience of national environmental issues."

Mark van Putten | BioScience

[The book is] interdisciplinary, covering everything from ecological theory in the opening chapters to the historical, economic, and politcal contexts of environmental law. . . . An engaging and articulate book that strives to reach a broad audience beyond law schools."

Craig W. Thomas | Perspectives on Politics

"A wide-ranging and often fascinating analysis of the evolution of American environmental law. Whether setting the stage in terms of the cultural and scientific background for the US environmental movement or discussing the legislative background . . . Lazarus has written a concise yet immensely interesting view of the various elements that have played major parts in the development of US environmental law."

Don C. Smith | Yearbook of European Environmental Law

Table of Contents

Part I: Making Environmental Law
1. Time, Space, and Ecological Injury
2. The Implications of Ecological Injury for Environmental Protection Law
3. The Challenges for U.S. Lawmaking Institutions and Processes of Environmental Protection Law
Part II: The Road Taken
4. Becoming Environmental Law
5. Building a Road: The 1970s
6. Expanding the Road: The 1980s
7. Maintaining the Road: The 1990s
Part III: Environmental Law in the New Millennium
8. The Emerging Architecture of U.S. Environmental Law
9. Changing Conceptions of Time and Space Redux: Environmental Law’s Future Challenges
10. Environmental Law’s Second (and Quite Different) "Republican Moment"
Conclusion: The Graying of the Green

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press