In the middle of Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who'd Stop at Nothing to Win by Paul M. Barrett, I was struck by obvious surface similarities between the book about a series of environmental lawsuits and Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I suspect other readers have made the same observation. Both cases stretched over two decades and enriched many lawyers. Late in his book Barrett even calls the case Dickensian.
The set of cases that began with Maria Aguinda v. Texaco Inc. and may have ended with Chevron Corp. v. Steven R. Donziger is a fascinating legal battle, and Barrett devotes more text to the legal issues than Charles Dickens did with Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Instead, Dickens had sympathetic characters to develop in his complicated story line. Barrett did not have that option. Almost everyone in Law of the Jungle is guilty of something. The only people for whom the readers can express sympathy are the rarely considered poor Ecuadorian peasants for whom the legal battle was initiated. Corporations, politicians, and lawyers make and lose huge sums of money, while the peasants get no relief from the soil, air, and water pollution of their rain forest caused by the oil industry.
I started Law of the Jungle because it was recommended to me by a reader to whom I have often suggested books. I was leery of it, for it sounded so depressing, which it is, but the story is gripping and important. We should know what it going on in our world. There is a big fight over all the world's natural resources. Barrett tells you how it is being fought and the possible consequences.
Barrett, Paul M. Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who'd Stop at Nothing to Win. Crown Publishers, 2014. 290p. ISBN 9780770436346.