New book called The Rights of Nature

A potentially revolutionary legal and cultural trend is spreading around the world. Countries, courts, and communities are acknowledging that nature, from rivers to ecosystems to endangered species, has rights that must be recognized, respected and protected. Read about these incredible stories in my latest book, The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution that Could Save the World, from ECW Press. The book has been featured on CBC, NPR, Macleans, and the Georgia Straight.

New Barnacleman World Record

On Wednesday, June 21, I achieved the fastest time ever recorded in the Barnacleman triathlon on Pender Island. In 22 hours and 55 minutes, I cycled to 55 trails and then hiked to beaches or viewpoints, circumnavigated North and South Pender by kayak, and ran the length of the island and back (approximately 45 km). In previous years, the Barnacleman was held over three days but the race organizer decided to make it more challenging by limiting the 2017 event to a single day. It was epic fun!

Joining UBC as an Associate Professor of Law, Policy, and Sustainability

I’m delighted to be joining the wonderful people at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability! I will also continue teaching in UBC’s new Masters in Public Policy and Global Affairs. For more information about IRES, please see For more info about the MPPGA program, please see


National Book Tour Information

I’m delighted to share the following information about my upcoming whistle-stop book tour for both “The Optimistic Environmentalist” and “Cleaner, Greener, Healthier: A Prescription for Stronger Canadian Environmental Laws” (UBC Press, 2015). The following events will focus on “The Optimistic Environmentalist”:
September 9: Pender Island Community Hall, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15: Edmonton, Audreys Books, 10702 Jasper Avenue, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17: Calgary Public Library, 616 Macleod Trail, SE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21: Saskatoon, McNally Robinson, 3130 8th St. East, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23: Winnipeg, Thin Air Festival, Millennium Library, noon
Sept. 23: Winnipeg, McNally Robinson, 1120 Grant Ave., 7 p.m.
Sept. 30: Toronto, U of T School of Environment, 4 p.m.
Oct. 1: Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalfe, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6: Montreal, Maison du Developpement Durable, 50, Sainte-Catherine Ouest, noon

The remaining dates will focus on “Cleaner, Greener, Healthier”
September 16: Edmonton, U of A, Telus Centre, Room 150, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17: Calgary, U of C, Murray Fraser Building, noon
Sept. 21: Saskatoon, U of S, noon
Sept. 24: Winnipeg, U of M, noon
Sept. 28: Oshawa, Durham College, TBA
Sept. 29: Toronto, Munk Centre, Munk School Observatory Site – 315 Bloor Street West
Sept. 30: Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School, 12.30 p.m.
Sept. 30: Toronto, U of T, Centre for Environment, 4 p.m
October 2: Ottawa, U of O, TBA
October 6/7: Montreal, McGill University, TBA
October 8: Dalhousie University, TBA
October 14: Victoria, UVic, TBA
October 15: Vancouver Simon Fraser University, 7 p.m., Location TBA
October 23: Vancouver Writer’s Festival, Granville Island, Studio 1398, 10 a.m.


The Optimistic Environmentalist!

OE cover My new book is now available. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “electrifying and inspiring” and I hope you’ll read it and help spread the word. See

New books coming in 2015

I’ve got two exciting books in the production process right now. Look for The Optimistic Environmentalist in August from ECW Press and another academic blockbuster on the failure of Canadian environmental laws to protect our health from UBC Press in September. Hopefully I’ll head out on a book tour in the fall to spread the word!

Boyd on Blue Dot

Second Book of 2012 Now Available

I’m really pleased to let you know that my latest book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, is now available from UBC Press. It is a sequel to the Environmental Rights Revolution, which was published earlier this year. The new book examines what a tremendous difference the right to a healthy environment could make in Canada, if it gained constitutional recognition.

The early reviews are awesome, including an endorsement from the Honourable Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

You can read the first chapter (free!) and order the book here

The Conservatives’ Covert War on the Environment

Posted on on March 22, 2012

For the first time in Canadian history, the federal government is systematically weakening the environmental laws intended to protect this country’s magnificent natural heritage. For four decades, since the dawn of the modern environmental era, governments in Ottawa — Liberal and Progressive Conservative, majority and minority — have passed new eco-laws and strengthened existing laws. Until now.

Using an under-handed tactic pioneered by anti-environmental Republican lawmakers in the U.S., Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government is surgically undermining the laws intended to protect Canada’s air, water, soil, biodiversity, and ecosystems.

During the 1990s, the Republican-controlled Congress attempted to roll back key environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. When their frontal assaults were rebuffed, the Republicans resorted to dirty tricks. Instead of directly targeting environmental laws, the Republicans attached anti-environmental riders to laws that enjoyed wide bi-partisan support, such as omnibus spending bills or payroll tax cuts. These riders were buried deep in lengthy pieces of legislation that few politicians were likely to read, and their obscurity made it difficult for environmentalists to generate public opposition.

The Conservatives obviously have learned from their southern counterparts. Next week’s budget is expected to be the third consecutive Conservative budget that contains deeply buried legislative changes that sabotage environmental laws.

In 2009, the Conservative budget law weakened several key elements of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, eliminating mandatory environmental assessments for major developments (e.g., bridges, dams, and causeways) on Canadian rivers. Whether there will be an environmental assessment now depends on the discretion of the Minister of Transport. The changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act also authorized the Minister to make a wide range of decisions without any public notice or consultation. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities criticized these powers as broad and arbitrary.

In the 2010 budget legislation, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was weakened by exempting infrastructure projects from assessment, re-assigning responsibility for assessing energy projects from the unbiased Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the pro-development National Energy Board and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and increasing the Environment Minister’s discretion to determine the scope of a project for purposes of environmental assessment. The latter change effectively reversed a Supreme Court of Canada decision that rejected the federal government’s attempt to artificially narrow the scope of environmental assessment. The beneficiaries of the weaker environmental assessment process include the oil and gas, mining, and nuclear industries.

If pre-budget trial balloons are reliable indicators, next week’s budget may include devastating changes to the Fisheries Act and further weakening of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Fisheries Act provisions that protect fish habitat have long been regarded as among the most important environmental rules in Canada. Potential changes leaked to the media last week would completely eliminate fish habitat protection. The usefulness of Canada’s environmental assessment law, already diminished by previous changes, could be slashed further by handing over decision-making powers to the provinces.

What is particularly nefarious about these environmental rollbacks is their profoundly undemocratic nature. The legal revisions are not subject to the regular process of public debate, expert review, and scrutiny by the House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Instead the changes are hidden in lengthy budget implementation laws, and glossed over by the Finance Committee. The 2009 and 2010 budget laws were 528 and 880 densely written pages, respectively.

The Conservatives’ purported rationale for eviscerating Canada’s environmental laws is that our regulatory regime is too strict. This assertion does not even pass the laugh test. Every reputable study of Canadian environmental law published in the past decade finds Canada to be a laggard, with rules for protecting air quality, drinking water, food safety, and biodiversity that are substantially less stringent than the standards in other industrialized nations.

Unlike their Reform Party predecessors or their Republican role models, the Conservatives did not run on an anti-environmental platform. To do so would have compromised their electoral chances, since protection of the environment is a fundamental value for the vast majority of Canadians. Public opinion polls consistently show that 75-80% of Canadians want stronger, not weaker, environmental laws.

The Conservatives appear hell-bent on exploiting and exporting Canada’s natural resources as quickly as possible, regardless of the environmental costs. The inevitable and unconscionable result would be an ecological debt imposed on future generations.

However, the Conservatives have demonstrated a willingness to back down on poor public policy positions, reversing their position on providing an economic stimulus in response to the recession, flip-flopping on their commitment to new fighter jets, and overcoming their earlier hostility towards China. Canadians from coast to coast need to speak up for nature, children, and future generations so that the Harper government reverses course on dismantling decades of essential environmental laws.


Little Green Lies: Prime Minister Harper and Canada’s Environment

Is Stephen Harper the worst prime minister that Canada has ever had, from an environmental perspective?

Read More…

Book Launch!

I’m delighted to share the news that The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment (UBC Press) is now available.

Read More…

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