Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seeing Environmental Law

A recent post by Blake Hudson reminded me how much photos can help teach environmental law.  With this in mind, over the past couple of days I have been pulling together some resources that I hope will improve my next environmental law class.

One resource that I do not use nearly as much as I should is Google Earth.  Google Earth seems tailor-made for environmental law professors.  In fact, Google's most recent campaign to get people to try the product is "Take a virtual tour of the California coast redwoods."  Could they be speaking to people like me more clearly?  I guess the ad could read "Take a tour of the redwoods the next time you teach natural resources," but that is nitpicking, isn't it?  It is not just the redwoods either.  To bring the point home, look at this aerial shot of some place very different from the redwoods--Love Canal:

Love Canal

The picture is great at telling the story of Love Canal's CERCLA remediation: it has been abandoned.  If you look closely at the picture, you can see that what appears an open field is actually the remnants of a neighborhood.  If one wants to take the story to the next level, Google Earth can help with that too.  The program allows users to upload photos and share them with anybody interested.  These photos are good at giving us more refined glances at Google's aerial shots.  Here is one of several shots of Love Canal, taken from near 100th Street:

Love Canal II

The field used to be a neighborhood.  The fence is meant to keep people off the remediation site.  The street is no longer used and is in disrepair. 

Additionally, I occasionally I show my students youtube videos.  Sticking with the Love Canal Theme, here is a video of Lois Gibbs discussing her experience with the Love Canal disaster.


Lastly, I often use federal government websites to find photos because these websites often explicitly permit people to use their photos for educational purposes.  Perhaps the largest repository of photos the federal government has is the National Archive.  Its Archival Research Catalogue includes thousands of photographs that are available digitally.  (Be warned, however, the search engine does not work very well on the site.  I would actually recommend doing a site specific Google search instead of the catalogue's search engine).  Here is one of my favorite pictures I have found in the national archives--Dead Horse Point in Utah, my home state:

Dead Horse Point

I think that to understand environmental law sometimes, you need to see it.  You need to somehow experience the things at stake, not just read or talk about them.  I am trying to find ways to help my students do that.  As I am rethinking my approach to environmental law for the upcoming year, I would be interested to hear what resources you use or would recommend.

--  Brigham Daniels

Toxic and Hazardous Substances | Permalink


Post a comment