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The Environmental Justice

William O. Douglas and American Conservation

Adam M. Sowards

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: Oregon State University Press


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pp. vii-vii

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pp. viii-x

"This book has been a decade in the making. In the course of writing and rewriting it, I have accumulated a long list of debts. I am happy to finally be able to acknowledge the tremendous help I have received along the way (and ask forgiveness from anyone I have inadvertently forgotten). Like all historians, I remain indebted to my teachers. The Environmental ..."

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Introduction A Public Intellectual for Conservation

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pp. 1-8

"In the middle of summer 1964, thousands of Americans opened up the most recent copy of Ladies’ Home Journal to find 'America’s Vanishing Wilderness.' Sandwiched between articles on choosing paint for home decoration and the continuing importance of homemakers,..."

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Chapter One Roots and Reputation

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pp. 9-30

"In October 1949, William O. Douglas and a childhood friend, Elon Gilbert, started on a horseback trip near Mount Rainier just as the 'mountain [was] gathering itself together for the winter’s assault.' Douglas and his horse, Kendall, were climbing a hillside when the horse 'reared and whirled, his front feet pawing the steep slope.' Douglas described what happened ..."

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Chapter Two Roads to Protest

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pp. 31-57

"It was an automobile age and a time of widespread conformity. In the 1950s, most Americans did not expect people to protest the building of roads. And certainly they did not anticipate a Supreme Court Justice walking nearly two hundred miles on one occasion and almost thirty miles of rugged wilderness beach on another to rally support against highway ..."

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Chapter Three Toward a Wilderness Bill of Rights

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pp. 58-80

"In the late 1940s and early 1950s, William O. Douglas became a world-famous traveler, writing accounts of 'strange lands and friendly people' while commenting on social and political themes.2 By the late 1950s, he was traveling more at home, concentrating on wild areas and writing about ..."

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Chapter Four: Committees of Correspondence

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pp. 81-111

"The 1960s and early 1970s were a time of great symbiosis for Douglas. His evolving thinking influenced his actions on the ground in specific environmental campaigns, even as his experience in those contests shaped his ideas. More importantly, the conservation movement grew enormously ..."

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Chapter Five: The Environmental Justice

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pp. 112-137

"Somewhat paradoxically, the role that gave Douglas public standing, his position on the nation’s highest court, was the most difficult position from which to engage the public on conservation concerns. Still, he found ways. This process began roughly but was made easier by a legal revolution in the ..."

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Conclusion: Transitions and Legacies

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pp. 138-147

"As Justice William O. Douglas’s public career wound down, he became more outspoken. His Sierra Club dissent showed as much. His publications also evidenced his increased radicalism peppered with his mounting impatience. Douglas reflected important changes in the conservation movement. By ..."


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pp. 148-178


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pp. 179-190


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pp. 191-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716331
E-ISBN-10: 0870716336
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870715679
Print-ISBN-10: 0870715674

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: B&W photos
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 741812883
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Environmental Justice

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Supreme Court -- Biography.
  • Judges -- United States -- Biography.
  • Environmental justice -- United States -- History.
  • Environmental law -- United States -- History.
  • Wildlife conservation -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History.
  • Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980.
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