2007 Archive

Professor Sax Awarded 2007 Blue Planet Prize

Professor Joseph L. Sax, House & Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation, Emeritus, has been named a co-recipient of the Blue Planet Prize for 2007 – a prestigious environmental award sponsored by the Asahi Glass Foundation.

Two Blue Planet Prizes are awarded each year to individuals or organizations that make outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application, and in so doing help to solve global environmental problems.

In addition to Sax, the 2007 Prize was awarded to Dr. Amory B. Lovins, chairman and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute. Each winner receives a cash award of 50 million yen, or approximately $428,000.

Professor Sax began his work in the mid-1960s when environmental law wasn't yet recognized as a legal field. He authored the ground-breaking Michigan Environment Protection Act (1970), popularly known as the "Sax Act," the world's first modern environmental law drafted on the basis of public trust doctrine.

The Sax Act – recognized as a catalyst of the environmental movement – ensured ordinary citizens' standing in environmental litigation. It states that "any person, partnership, corporation, association, organization or other legal entity may maintain an action in the circuit court for the protection of the air, water, and other natural resources and the public trust therein from pollution, impairment, or destruction."

"Professor Sax made public trust doctrine one of the key principles in environmental law, both domestically and internationally," explains Cymie Payne, director of the Global Commons Project and associate director of the California Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CCELP).

Payne points out that the Supreme Court of India cited Sax's writing in support of its application of the doctrine. She notes also that Sax has made significant contributions in the fields of water law and property rights.

"The prize, in recognition that environmental conservation is among the most urgent global issues, provides encouragement to all those who work seeking resolution of environmental problems," Sax says.

Sax continues: "It is particularly gratifying to acknowledge … the role that the rule of law plays in implementation of scientific achievement in the governance of our societies, and in assuring justice to those who have suffered environmental harm."

Sax is the author of five books on environmental law issues, co-author of nine others, and has published over 150 law review articles. He has also been honored with many environmental law awards, including:

    * Environmental Quality Award, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1976)
    * Elizabeth Haub Award, Free University of Brussels (1977)
    * William O. Douglas Legal Achievement Award, The Sierra Club (1984)
    * Environmental Law Institute Award (1985)
    * Distinguished Water Attorney Award (2004)

"This is simply the latest in a series of well-deserved accolades Professor Sax has received over his remarkable career," says Rick Frank, executive director of CCELP.  "Joe has been a source of inspiration and invaluable guidance to generations of environmental law students, practitioners, and policymakers."

The Asahi Glass Foundation was founded in 1933 to promote advances in the chemical industry, and has since diversified its funding program to support research in all natural sciences. The Blue Planet Prize was first awarded in 1992. (Learn more about the foundation.)

The prize ceremony will be held October 17 in Tokyo.