Festival of Ideas May 2017

James Thornton and Martin Goodman

James Thornton and Martin Goodman

Client Earth

Environmentally, our planet lacks the laws to keep it safe and the laws we do have are feebly enforced. Every new year is the hottest in human history, while forest, reef, ice, tundra and species are disappearing forever. It is easy to lose all hope. Who will stop the planet from committing ecological suicide? The UN? Governments? Activists? Corporations? Engineers? Scientists? Or lawyers?

When James Thornton founded not-for-profit environmental-law organisation ClientEarth, he spearheaded an entirely new way of defending our planet. Taking the Earth as his principal client, he has built a taskforce of lawyers who now work full-time on cases across the globe. By combining legal expertise with scientific understanding, they have shown that it is possible to tackle issues ranging from climate change to habitat loss and air pollution. From a case for reform of the European Fisheries’ Policy to illegal forestry in Africa, Thornton and Martin Goodman examine actions against some of the most powerful companies, institutions and governments worldwide. They offer a unique insight into the global impact of this model of law-making and law-enforcing.

Speaker Biographies

James Thornton is an environmental lawyer and writer. He is the founding CEO of ClientEarth, a not-for-profit environmental-law organisation with offices in London, Brussels, and Warsaw. The New Statesman named him as one of ten people who could change the world, The Lawyer picked him as one of the top 100 lawyers in the UK and BusinessGreen selected him as Leader of the Year for 2014. He is a member of the bars of New York, California and the Supreme Court of the United States, and a solicitor of England and Wales. He is the author, with Martin Goodman, of Client Earth.

Martin Goodman has written nine books of fiction and non-fiction. His biography of the scientist Dr J S Haldane, Suffer and Survive, won First Prize, Basis of Medicine in the 2008 BMA Book Awards. His novel, On Bended Knees, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award. A BBC New Generation Thinker, his programmes for BBC Radio 4 include a two-part series on iconic architecture of England and a documentary on the writer Alan Garner (2014). He is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull, and director of the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing. His latest book, with James Thornton, is Client Earth.