Environmental Law (2nd edition) – 2011

Author: Michael Kidd
Publisher: Juta, Cape Town
ISBN: 978-0-7021-8545-8

I think of the several general South African environmental law books currently available, this ranks as the most readable example. Sadly, many of our legal writer friends are apt to be extravagant with their words, resulting in confusion and pain for readers. However, Michael Kidd’s writing style is comfortable and uncomplicated (most of the time).

The problem with environmental law in South Africa over the past few years is that it has changed drastically on an almost monthly basis. This makes life difficult for the text book and reference work writer who tries to encapsulate concepts as they stand. When the target is moving, it becomes problematic.

This second edition is much better than the first and has been updated to the end of 2010. Although still not quite up to date, it is still a valuable reference work. Added to this is the fact that a CD containing key legislation and case descriptions has been added which takes a lot of effort out of checking precedents. The added chapter on climate change is useful but will no doubt be overshadowed by the events that will play out at COP-17 to be held in December of this year.

One of the highlights for me in this book is the chapter which discusses “Implementation and Administration of Environmental Law” (Chapter 8). This valuable chapter tackles both the theory and the practice of the matter and clearly illustrates, in many cases, why environmental law is so problematic in its application (magistrates intimidated by environmental scientific evidence, burden of time and cost, moral aspects of criminal and environmental law, etc.).

If I have one gripe about this book, it is that I would have liked more in-depth discussion and detail on environmental impact assessment. Although this is covered, I think the section could have benefited from more information considering the environmental impact practitioner and his legal exposures, particularly when at the mercy of unscrupulous clients.

Highly recommended for corporate Environmental Managers and Environmental Officers who have to deal with environmental legal compliance issues. The case law and precedents on the CD can easily be accessed which is a bonus and a time saver.