May 5, 2012
Interdisciplinary Call for Papers
George Handley (BYU Humanities) has issued a call for papers and panel presentations for what looks to be an absolutely fascinating symposium this fall. Proposals are due June 1:
“Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainability: A Call to Stewardship”
Brigham Young University--Provo, UT
Date: November 8-10, 2012
This symposium is devoted to exploring the interdisciplinary dimensions of environmental stewardship in literature and the arts, law, philosophy, science, and religion. We seek papers that critique, develop, and enhance conceptions of stewardship that are grounded in current scientific and cultural understanding of environmental problems. We encourage explorations such problems as climate change, species extinction, human/animal relationships, food production, land and water use, air quality, and other environmental and resource problems of national and international consequence. We especially welcome presentations that also develop the underlying moral, ethical, cultural, or theological dimensions of such problems. In other words, we seek papers that will provide guidelines for solutions and the justifications and methods for motivating conservation, restoration, and the goal of long-term sustainability. Moreover, we expect papers that reflect various religious, philosophical, and cultural perspectives. Confirmed keynote speakers include Margaret Palmer (Director of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and University of Maryland), Jonathan Foley (Institute on the Environment at the University of the Minnesota), and J. Baird Callicott (University of North Texas and co-editor of theEncyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy). This symposium will address questions about:
Stewardship: What are the advantages and limitations of the idea of stewardship? To which texts, stories, cosmologies, and artistic traditions can we turn for inspiration? What are the underlying values and moral limits of environmental laws? What obstacles and opportunities are there for science to interface effectively with religion, public policy, and culture to promote better stewardship?
Conservation: What are the fundamental principles of conservation biology? What are the crises of conservation we face? How can we translate conservation biology and other relevant sciences more effectively into the languages of culture and religion, into human values?
Restoration: What are the challenges of ecological restoration? How do we know when restoration is necessary? What successes can we point to? With the need of ecological restoration in mind, what kind of economy is a moral and efficacious one? What is religion’s relevance to restoration?
Sustainability: What are the fundamental principles of sustainability? What are the principles of intergenerational as well as intra-generational fairness? How can we meet the needs of present and future populations? What are the limits of resources we face and what role might faith, innovation, or modesty play in living within them?
Please send proposals for individual papers or for panels to George_Handley@byu.edu by June 1, 2012. Proposals for papers should be no more than 200 words and should include a CV. Proposals for panels should include a description of the panel’s objectives and a paper proposal and a CV for each participant.
This symposium is hosted by the Environmental Ethics Initiative at Brigham Young University and sponsored by generous funds from The Nature Conservancy and from BYU’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Colleges of Life Sciences and of Humanities.
May 4, 2012
Republicans of 2012 and Republicans of 1972
In the current Republican presidential primary, environmental protection is not a value that Republican candidates have held out. In fact, we have seen just the opposite. To win over support in a debate, Michele Bachmann promised, “Elect me and I'll kill the EPA.” Others candidates have also called for elimination and scaling back of the Agency. Crowds surrounding the candidates have often begun chanting or caring signs that say, “Drill baby, drill.” Environmental scientists have been not only questioned but also have been demonized for the conclusions they have drawn about global climate change.
This morning, I reviewed the Republican platform of 1972. The contrasts between the Republican Party of 1972 and the GOP of today in many ways are even more pronounced than the contrasts between the current Republican and Democratic parties. In 1972, the Party highlighted the fact that President Nixon created not only the EPA but also the Council on Environmental Quality and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As for energy, the Party called for development of renewable energy sources, particularly solar and geothermal, and went on to say, “We recognize the serious problem of assuring adequate electric generating capacity in the Nation, and pledge to meet this need without doing violence to our environment.” As for science, the Party saw it as “indispensable to our national security, our international competitive position, and virtually every aspect of the domestic economy” and pledged to “place special emphasis” in pursing breakthroughs in developing “abundant, clean energy sources” and “safe, fast and pollution-free transportation.”
While times have changed, as have some of the challenges we face, it is hard to believe it is the same party. Perhaps it’s not.
-- Brigham Daniels
May 3, 2012
The neighborhood associations of Mistletoe Heights and Berkeley Place, both part of a historic preservation district in the city of Fort Worth, Texas, recently passed measures encouraging the city to consider a “road diet” for the four-lane road that transects these neighborhoods. Planners Dan Burden and Peter Lagerway coined the phrase “road diet” in the 1990s to refer to the transportation planning technique of reallocating existing roadway space that is providing excessive carrying capacity in a manner that results in a reduction in the number of vehicle lanes. For example, a road diet might involve the conversion of a four-lane, undivided road to a three lane road, whereby the land previously used for the fourth lane can be employed for other purposes, such as the creation of a two-way left turn lane and either defined bicycle lanes (image A below), wider sidewalks and landscaping (image B), or angled/parallel parking (image C), or some combination thereof.
Image A, courtesy of HoustonTomorrow.
Image B, courtesy of Houston Tomorrow.
Image C, courtesy of Streets Blog.
Proponents of road diets generally cite to more efficient roadway usage, reduced vehicular speeds and crash rates, and the promotion of walk-able and cycle-able communities. (This video provides a nice summary of these and the related benefits of road diets.) In addition to these social and public health and safety benefits, it seems that road diets, when implemented on appropriate multi-lane arterials, also can provide a number of environmental benefits. For example, bicycle lanes and expanded sidewalks can reduce dependency on automobiles (and thus reduce the environmental risks associated with the fossil fuels that power them). Moreover, landscaping can reduce impervious cover (and thereby reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality), offer cooling shade, and provide vegetation that can serve as carbon sinks.
Nevertheless, road diets are not universally supported. Opponents fear that traffic volume might exceed the capacity of the reduced lanes. Additionally, some suggest that road diets can either (i) reduce the speed and reliability of public transit service where bus stops are located in pullouts and buses have difficulty re-entering traffic, or (ii) increase overall traffic congestion given that it will be more difficult for motorists to pass buses that make frequent stops.
It will be interesting to see whether and how this latest, grass roots effort in Fort Worth, and related efforts across the country, prompt local land use entities to formally consider the environmental benefits of road diets in deciding whether the potential advantages of road diets outweigh the risks.
May 2, 2012
Inaugural University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Environmental and Energy Law Workshop
Am delighted to share the latest development in our growing environmental and energy law program here. This week, from May 3-5, we will be hosting our inaugural interdisciplinary environmental and energy law workshop, "New Directions in Environmental and Energy Law, Policy, and Geography." The workshop and our environmental and energy law program is organized around four themes: (1) clean energy infrastructure; (2) multi-level environmental and energy governance; (3) environmental, energy, and climate justice; and (4) sustainable communities. We plan to host a major conference in spring 2013 on Legal and Policy Pathways for Energy Innovation that also focuses on these themes for which we will post an announcement and call for papers in the coming months.
I am particularly pleased that we will have scholars from law, public policy, geography, and business from the University of Minnesota and other universities around the country presenting papers and often commenting on work from another discipline. We also are incorporating our students, including giving inaugural awards to their law, public policy, and interdisciplinary scholarship where they will discuss their work.
Faculty participants include:
Deepa Badrinarayana, Chapman University
Melinda Harm Benson, University of New Mexico
Jeffrey Bielicki, University of Minnesota
Alejandro Camacho, University of California, Irvine
Ann Carlson, UCLA
Lincoln Davies, University of Utah
Daniel Farber, UC Berkeley
Victor Flatt, UNC
Robert Glicksman, George Washington University
Rebecca Hardin, University of Michigan
Brad Karkkainen, University of Minnesota
Alice Kaswan, University of San Francisco
Steve Kelley, University of Minnesota
Alexandra Klass, University of Minnesota
Katherine Klink, University of Minnesota
Jennifer Kuzma, University of Minnesota
Helga Leitner, University of Minnesota
Alfred Marcus, University of Minnesota
Beth Mercer-Tayler, University of Minnesota
Myron Orfield, University of Minnesota
Hari Osofsky, University of Minnesota
Ashira Ostrow, Hofstra University
Dalia Patino, Duke University
Eric Sheppard, University of Minnesota
Elizabeth Wilson, University of Minnesota
Hannah Wiseman, Florida State University
May 1, 2012
Citizens have a Right to Seek Information on Nuclear Plant Safety: The Right Decision
In my previous blogs, I tracked the developments regarding India’s newest and largest nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. If you recall, a core contention between the government and the opponents of the plant is the question of safety plans. E.g. how will people living within 30 miles be evacuated in the case of an emergency? Along with protests and fasts continue, opponents applied for information on the safety plan under India’s Right to Information Act. The lead agency, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) denied the request, on the ground that the information was “classified.” In particular, the agency apparently denied access because revealing the safety plan would also result in the release of certain design specifications provided by Russian manufacturers.
According to news reports, the Central Information Commission (CIC), the designated appellate body under RIA has disagreed with NPCIL’s interpretation and has ordered NPCIL to share the safety plans. The CIC determined that the portion describing the design could be redacted from the safety plan.
CIC’s decision appears to be in accordance with RIA. Section 8(1) of RIA allows the government or concerned agency to deny a RIA request for certain reasons, including preserving the sovereign interests of India, including its securiy and economic interests, as well as to protect commercial and trade-related confidential information. However, section 8(2) clarifies that where the public interest is better served by disclosing, rather than by protecting the information, such information should be disclosed. This provision overrides the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
Even if (thankfully) few and far apart, two major nuclear accidents have demonstrated the vitality of safety plans. They provide evidence that the safety of residents outweighs commercial considerations in matters relating to nuclear energy. However, the CIC's decision is much narrower and instead of requiring the agency to share the entire safety plan, it has required it to simply share parts of the plan that it apparently did not classify as confidential.
The disclosure of the information is critical for three reasons. First, it will demonstrate NPCIL's adherence to the rule of law. Second, and relatedly, it can increase the legitimacy of the project. If NPCIL's safety plans are reasonable and demonstrate that the agency did consider the interests of the residents, it may be able to convince at least some opponents to come on board. Third, locales with better knowledge of on-ground issues may be able to contribute to both the improvement and implementation of the plan.
If NPCIL refuses to comply, it only colors the matter further. Such loss of legitimacy in the aftermath of the accidents in Japan, may only exacerbate the protests. It is afterall not reasonable to ask residents to settle for the propositions made by NPCIL in its release of facts. At the cost of exaggerating, let me end by noting one hundred years back the Titanic sunk. Even though it was built with great care, at great cost, and marked a significant feat, one of its flaws remained the lack of sufficient attention to safety. While NPCIL may be taking great care, its safety plans are critical in the event of a catastrophic accident. The decision of the CIC appears to be moving the NPCIL in the right direction by asking it to share such critical information with those who may be most affected by an improbable accident.
April 30, 2012
Ode to a Biodiverse Neighborhood
(see image below for a Buck Moth Caterpillar being "serviced" by a member of the spider alliance)
Here is an ode to my new home
Where many a critter apparently doth roam
The days of tamed neighborhood living are long, long gone
In this week raccoons have thrown a party in my trash
Many a red-headed skink and colorful salamander have crossed my path
And in our fountain water snakes have taken a bath
At the risk of incurring my wife's fearful wrath
Though a buck moth caterpillar nearly sent me into anaphylactic shock
I forged an alliance with spiders that made me assess the stock
While natural system functions are at risk of grinding to a stop
Lizards in the house are nothing new
Florida had its share of mosquitoes too
But I've seen far more birds in live oaks covered in dew
And far more frogs croaking in the nearby slough
But the news that really caught me off guard
And has made the adjustment a tad bit hard
Was the call this morning that left me quite jarred
Of an alligator spotted in our back yard
While living near man-eating predators may not get much worse
And my family's presence in our back yard I must now coerce
I can imagine a lot of things far, far worse
Than living in a neighborhood this biodiverse
....not the least of which is living in an urban jungle
- Blake Hudson