Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In case you missed it

Union Carbide absolved of liability for environmental harms of Bhopal gas leak

    A New York district court dismissed an action brought by citizens of India against the parent corporation of Union Carbide India (now Everready Industries), Union Carbide Corporation (now part of Dow Chemicals). Plaintiffs sued the parent company to clean up the contaminated site, where water supply has also been affected. The court reportedly rejected arguments on piercing the corporate veil and noted that the parent corporation was not responsible for the accident or for the clean up. News reports on the decision are available here and here. The plaintiffs will reportedly appeal the decision.


UNESCO has listed twenty six new sites. The inclusion of these sites in UNESCO's list entitles them to protection and funding assistance under the  World Heritage Convention (WHC). The Western Ghats is an area rich in biological diversity and its inclusion may have interesting implications in terms of action to protect WHC sites from climate change. UNESCO's resolution and recommendations on protecting world heritage sites can be found here.

July 3, 2012 in Africa | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Practical and Experiential Learning in Environmental and Energy Law

Increasingly, I find it important to bring the practical into the classroom.  To be upfront, this view is not new for me.  I joined the academy with the presumption that deep theory, legal doctrine, and careful analysis cannot stand alone; the best learning couples heavy doses of those with the real world.  Five years in, consistent feedback from students and the bar have overwhelmingly confirmed what I initially assumed.  At least some professors also seem to agree.

Injecting the practical is comparatively easy in some courses.  In my civil procedure class, for instance, I am constantly trying to find ways to help students see that the rules are not just principles; they are tools that you can only truly understand if you pick them up and use them repeatedly.  In the litigation context, avenues for making this clear are both discrete and fairly digestible, even in the first semester.  Students in my class attend two court proceedings.  They draft a complaint or an answer.  They write a set of discovery.  They complete a CALI exercise that tries to replicate the discovery process of a case.  It is not uncommon on my exams for students to be asked to draft a motion, complete the next entry in a deposition transcript, or create a notice of appeal.  Certainly, I have no illusions that any first-year student will leave my class a master of any of these tasks.  But the hope is that by being exposed to some of them, students not only begin to gain an understanding of what litigators do on a daily basis, but also learn the material more deeply while laying a foundation of skills they will actually need in practice.

The question, then, is whether this kind of hybrid learning is also useful for more specialized, upper level law classes, particularly those in the environment, energy, and natural resource fields.  More and more, I have become convinced that it is.  Conceptually, this makes sense.  Lawyers in any field have specific, practical skills they cannot be effective without.  There is no reason this is not also true for the areas in which we teach.  Having practiced for seven years, I know that's the case.  The environmental lawyer is always translator:  To handle a pollution case, you have to comprehend risk analysis and toxicology.  To grapple with energy rates or mergers, a grasp of economics is essential.  To do endangered species, biology is fundamental.  In all these, an understanding of the industry the lawyer represents, or that the law at issue regulates, cannot be foregone.

The problem for the classroom, however, is twofold.  First, there is a chicken-and-egg dilemma.  Students cannot really dive into the details of many topics on a practical basis until they have the basics of the law under control.  But getting to how that law really works is tough without practical exercises.  Second, there is an allocation quandary.  Every minute spent on a practical exercise deepens students’ understanding of that topic but does so at the expense of another subject area that could be covered instead.  In courses that present as many fascinating issues as ours do, making this choice is often more painful—for me at least—than deciding, for example, whether to do another day on summary judgment or covering standards of review in civil procedure.  At some point, moreover, too much of the practical in the classroom converts the substantive topic to a clinical one; there is a balance to find.

Nevertheless, I believe we owe it to our students to add this dimension to their understanding of the field.  To that end, here are a few things we are doing in my energy law class this semester.

  • Field trips to various energy sites, including to PacifiCorp’s Gadsby Power Plant earlier this week.

  • Mock cost-of-service ratemaking exercises, using a hypothetical utility’s rate base, debt structure, and production costs.

  • Guest lectures and case studies on actual energy controversies.

I’d be thrilled to hear what others are doing in their energy, environmental, or natural resources classes to add practical or experiential learning to the classroom.

-Lincoln Davies

(photo credit: S.P. Hansen)

February 10, 2012 in Africa, Economics, Energy, Land Use, Law, Science, Social Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Teaching Hydraulic Fracturing

In response to the recent discussion on the Environmental Law Professors' Listserv about teaching hydraulic fracturing, I'd like to provide a few thoughts.  I have been following hydraulic fracturing since 2008, and I learn new things about fracturing daily.  Unconventional oil and gas drilling in the United States (including fracturing of drilled wells) is expanding so rapidly--and state and local regulation is changing so quickly--that it's difficult to provide one consistent and accurate picture.  As of today, though, the following list describes how I would approach a whirlwind classroom tour of hydraulic fracturing: 

1) Hydraulic fracturing has been around for a long time--indeed, for more than half a century--and is used to extract both oil and gas. In Coastal Oil v. Garza, the Texas Supreme Court suggested that fracturing has been applied commercially since 1949.  Oil and gas operators have used hydraulic fracturing in a variety of formations, including tight sands, shales, and coalbeds (see the somewhat controversial EPA study of coalbed fracturing here), among other formations, and the effects of fracturing may vary substantially depending on the type of formation fractured--particularly the depth at which fracturing occurs.  Although fracturing itself is not new, one type of fracturing only emerged within the last several decades and has boomed within the last ten years.  "Slickwater" or "slick water" fracturing, developed in Texas's Barnett Shale in the 1990s, is "new" in several respects:  It often involves the drilling of both a horizontal and vertical well, and it typically requires large volumes of water--somewhere between two and eight million gallons (or between 1.2 and 3.5, depending on the information source) for each fracture treatment--and small quantities of chemicals (about 0.5 percent by weight).

2) Many of the stages of producing oil or gas from a fractured well are identical to conventional oil and gas well development.  An operator constructs an access road and well pad; drills, cases, and cements a well; and temporarily stores on site drilling wastes, including drill cuttings, used drilling mud, and produced water that comes up from the formation when drilled.  The operator then disposes of this waste.  Depending on the state regulation, some waste may be buried on site or applied to certain land surfaces, while other waste must be sent a landfill, disposed of in an underground injection control well permitted under the Safe Drinking Water Act, sent to a wastewater treatment plant, or disposed of through other methods approved by the state.  Depending on state regulation, an operator that drills and fractures a well also completes certain site restoration after drilling and fracturing is finished, as does a conventional developer after drilling.  Fracturing also requires additional processes, however, including withdrawing large quantities of water; trucking or pumping in water and storing it in a pit or tank on site or in a centralized impoundment; trucking chemicals on site and mixing them with water; perforating (punching holes in) certain portions of the well casing (although many conventional wells also are perforated); treating the shale around the wellbore with an acid to clean it; injecting water and chemicals into the well at high pressure to fracture the shale around the well and/or expand existing fractures; injecting "proppant" into the well to prop open the fractures once formed; and capturing and disposing of "flowback" water--the water and chemical mixture used for fracturing, some of which flows back up out of the well.  For a detailed description of the fracturing process and its potential environmental effects, see chapter 5 of the New York DEC's preliminary revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for high-volume fracturing.  For a report on the chemicals used in fracturing, see this House Committee on Energy and Commerce Minority Staff Report

3) Fracturing is increasingly common.  Industry estimates that more than 90 percent of gas wells in the United States are hydraulically fractured.   I am not familiar with the numbers for oil, but certain shales with oil--such as the Bakken Shale--have experienced a fracturing boom.  (Shale oils are not to be confused with oil shales, which must be mined to extract oil.)  The rise in fracturing for natural gas has been astounding.  In 2000, the Texas Railroad Commission issued 273 permits for gas drilling in the Barnett Shale.  In 2008, it issued 4,145 permits, and operators received 2,157 Barnett permits in 2010.  In 2008, operators drilled 195 wells in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania; in 2010, they drilled 1,386 wells.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration has a useful map of all shale plays and of shale gas production, much of which so far has occurred in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Texas.   West Virginia's and Pennsylvania's production numbers will continue to rise, and New York will be an important player when the New York Department of Environmental Conservation finalizes the conditions that it will place on high-volume fracturing and begins to approve permits.  Shale oil and tights sands formations also typically are fractured and have generated increased interest in states like Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming, among others. 

4) Portions of the development process for a fractured well are federally regulated.  Operators may not dispose of pollutants into navigable waters without a Clean Water Act NPDES permit, of course.  They are potentially liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act for pollution caused by hazardous substances other than oil or gas, and they must maintain material safety data sheets on site for certain chemicals, as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.  (See this recent post summarizing disclosure and the MSDS requirement.)  Operators also enjoy a number of federal exemptions, however, including exemptions of exploration and production (E&P) wastes from subtitle C of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (see 42 U.S.C. 6982 (m)(1), 42 U.S.C. 6921(b)(2)(B), and 53 Fed. Reg. 25,446); reporting of annual toxic chemical releases under EPCRA (see 42 U.S.C. 11023(c), which references the document with the Standard Industrial Classification codes to which the reporting requirement applies); and oil and gas pollution from CERCLA liability (42 U.S.C. 9601(14) excludes petroleum and natural gas from the definition of "hazardous substance.")  For the fracturing process itself--injecting water and chemicals at high pressure down the well--an operator also is not subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act unless the operator uses diesel fuel.   See 42 U.S.C. 1421(d).  The EPA currently is developing UIC permitting standards for fracturing with diesel fuel.  If the operator disposes of drilling or fracturing wastes in a UIC well, then SDWA applies.   Operators also must comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, and the EPA has proposed new source performance standards for VOCs from fractured and re-fractured wells under the Clean Air Act. 

5) State regulations of oil and natural gas extraction--including the fracturing portion of the process--vary.  All states have a variety of casing regulations that typically require casing to extend a certain number of feet below underground fresh water (or require, more generally, casing that protects water), and that the cement used to secure the casing be of a certain minimum strength.  Many states require that pits used to store drilling and fracturing waste be lined, either with clay or a synthetic liner, and some, such as New York, are moving toward requiring steel tanks for waste storage.  States also sometimes regulate the required minimum distance between the edge of the well pad, pits, or the well itself and various natural resources, such as streams and wetlands; others have few of these types of distance restrictions.   Many states have begun to update various regulations or to issue less formal directives to address the rise of gas and/or oil development and fracturing.  See, for example, West Virginia's focus on water withdrawals; Pennsylvania's updated well water replacement, cementing, and casing requirements (58 P.S. 601.208, 25 Pa. Code 78.51, 25 Pa. Code 78.83, and the Pennsylvania Bulletin); and updated fracturing and drilling regulations in Arkansas (see Rule B-19), Montana, Wyoming (click on the plus symbol next to "Chapter 3:  Operational Rules, Drilling Rules"  and then "Section 45. Well Stimulation"), and Louisiana and Ohio (for urban areas).  See also the Delaware River Basin Commission's proposed regulations of fracturing within the basin, Colorado's comprehensive update of its oil and gas drilling regulations, and the extensive restrictions proposed for high-volume fracturing within New York's preliminary revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, for which the comment period is open through December 12.  States increasingly require disclosure of fracturing fluids either to state agencies or the public (or both), as summarized in a recent post, and the EPA issued a letter and subpoena to obtain chemical data for its ongoing fracturing study. 

6) States' enforcement capacities and activity in the oil and gas area seem to vary.  The Arkansas Public Policy Panel, for example, worries that Arkansas is inadequately inspecting and enforcing violations at hydraulically fractured wells in the Fayetteville Shale.  Pennsylvania has substantially increased agency staffing numbers, and the DEP has noted a number of violations--many of which have been summarized by the Pennsylvania Land Trust.  For Pennsylvania DEP reporting of Marcellus enforcement, go to this link and scroll down.  A 1998 Ground Water Protection Council survey describes state agency responses to complaints about alleged contamination from fracturing. 

7) Much of the media attention has focused on the injection of water and chemicals underground for fracturing and potential impacts on aquifers and water wells.  Indeed, there are potential gas migration concerns associated with old and new wells, as suggested by a Pennsylvania DEP draft report on stray gas migration and a recent Duke study.   The activities at the surface may be more important, though--from trucking chemicals to the site (are hazardous transportation regulations adequate?) to mixing them with water on site (are spill prevention and control plans adequate?), preventing blowouts during drilling and fracturing (blowout prevention regulations vary by state), and storing and disposing of flowback water.  Many wastewater treatment plants may not be equipped to handle large quantities of new waste--some of which is slightly radioactive.  The wastewater challenges are perhaps best evidenced by Pennsylvania's recent move away from POTW disposal of flowback water.  In other states, the space in underground injection control wells is filling up (see West Virginia DEP's concerns, for example), thus requiring a move toward alternative disposal methods, additional drilling and permitting of UIC wells, and an aggressive focus on flowback recycling.  For a summary of recent fracturing wastewater issues in Pennsylvania, see this post.

8) Creative lawsuits have emerged.  For an intriguing study of regional regulation of fracturing under proposed Delaware River Basin Commission regulations, and New York's argument that these regulations require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act, see this complaint.  For some initial court rulings on alleged contamination from fracturing in Pennsylvania, see Fiorentino v. Cabot and Berish v. Southwestern Energy Production Company

9) The EPA is conducting a study of the "potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and groundwater," with initial results projected to be available by 2012 and a final report in 2014.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is conducting air monitoring around fractured gas wells, as is Pennsylvania. The Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board also has released a draft fracturing report, which includes policy recommendations, as has Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.  Finally, the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations has completed reviews of state fracturing regulation in Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

This provides only a small slice of the ever-expanding body of fracturing information.  I welcome comments, corrections, and additions.

-Hannah Wiseman

September 30, 2011 in Africa | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Case You Missed It -- The Week of August 1-7

* The famine in Somalia continues to worsen.

* Shell received conditional approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation to drill in the arctic Beaufort Sea, off the coast of Alaska.

* EPA proposed a rule that would exempt carbon dioxide streams from hazardous waste regulations under certain conditions.  The hope is to spur greater use of carbon capture and sequestration technology.

* A new PAC has formed to promote energy efficiency legislation.

* If you haven't seen it yet, Science has out an impressive set of materials on population trends, their environmental impacts, and prognostications about what it all means for the future of the planet.

* The leopards are not happy.

August 7, 2011 in Africa, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Energy, Land Use, Law, Legislation, North America, Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lions, Tigers, and Bears...All Gone?

A recent CNN article described the plummeting population of big cats in Africa, noting that populations have dropped from 450,000 fifty years ago to as few as 20,000 today. Worldwide tiger populations have experienced similar drastic declines, with an estimated 95% drop in population over the past one hundred years - from 100,000 tigers at the turn of the 20th Century to as few as 3,200 today.  Of course, scientists are similarly concerned about the implications of climate change for polar bear populations, not to mention numerous other bear populations around the world. These scenarios raise interesting questions about the significance of "charismatic megafauna" in either spurring environmental protection (cute and cuddly panda bears) or in exacerbating species decline due to the "prize value" of the animal (ivory elephant tusks, tiger meat in Asian markets). 

Charismatic megafauna are often described as species that people "really care about," such as pandas, whales, and bald eagles, to name a few. So what does it say about the status of global biodiversity when we continue to witness precipitous declines in populations of charismatic megafauna?  Perhaps the problem is jurisdictional: lions and tigers are distributed in developing countries with far less stringent environmental protections and where the animal's economic value is far higher when it is dead rather than alive.  The case of mountain lions and wolves in the U.S. lends evidence in this regard, as each (the western mountain lion, at least) is recovering in population size and regaining portions of former habitat presumably due to the (relatively recent) focus on environmental protection throughout their habitat range. But as the polar bear and a variety of other species demonstrate, economic growth and habitat fragmentation also play a key role in the decline of these species.  So, if lions, tigers, and bears are charismatic megafauna that people "really care about," what happens to global resources that people hold in far less regard? 

- Blake Hudson

March 7, 2011 in Africa, Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, International, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are Speculators Driving Up Oil Prices?

The Economist published an article Data Diving discussing new data that allows closer analysis of whether speculators are responsible for driving up oil prices.  The short answer according to the speculators is probably not.  And, even if they were, in the Economist's opinion, the critical importance of liquidity overwhelms any effect on higher prices.

The regulatory question is whether the Commodity Futures Trading Commission should limit the positions that speculators such as banks, hedge funds, and others take on oil because of the harmful influence that speculators have on the market.

... whether speculation has really been responsible for spiking prices is a controversial issue. In 2008 the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report dismissing the role of speculators in last year’s startling run-up in prices. But banks, hedge funds and others who bet on oil (without a use for the stuff itself) still face limits on the positions they can take, if Gary Gensler, the new CFTC head, can show that their influence in markets does harm.

New disaggregated data show more clearly the role of speculators in the market:

On September 4th the CFTC added more evidence to the debate by releasing what it said were more transparent data on market positions. Before this month, the CFTC simply classified traders as “commercial” or “non-commercial” in its weekly report on the overall long and short positions in the market. Now it has started to disaggregate them further, into producers and buyers, swap dealers and “managed money”. The third category includes hedge funds.

The new data indicate that speculators (swap dealers and managed money) were long on oil in the week to September 1st, with managed money holding a net long position by more than a 2-to-1 ratio. Those actually involved in the oil business (producers and users) held positions that were net short by similar ratios.  And the swap dealers and managed-money players are bigger in the market, both in terms of the contracts they hold and their own sheer numbers.

So, the speculators constitute the largest amount of the market and they take dramatically opposite positions in the market as compared with producers and users.  Still, the speculators' analysts discount the ability of speculators to affect the market.  I'm not market savvy enough to understand the speculators' analysis proffered by the Economist so would someone out there explain how this tells us that speculators are not influencing the market?

But analysts at Barclays Capital note that long swaps accounted for just 6.4% of total futures and options contracts, not enough to drive prices up on their own. Physical traders held more of the outstanding long positions (10.3%) and held even more short positions. This one set of numbers, in other words, does little to prove that speculators are overriding market fundamentals to drive prices. New quarterly data also released by the CFTC show that money flows to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in commodities failed to correlate strongly with last year’s price surge.

Maybe some more numbers will help us sort this out (in favor of the speculators):

There are more disclosures to come. The CFTC says it will soon release the newly disaggregated data going back three years. If those numbers, like the quarterly ETF data, are equally unconvincing on the role of speculation, the case for limiting positions will be weakened.

And the Economists' speculator-friendly bottom line:

And a strong counter-argument remains: that speculators provide crucial liquidity. Even if they also have some effect on prices, taking them out of the game could well do more harm than good. It is tempting to look for scapegoats when high prices hurt consumers. But the real culprits for oil-price volatility may be much more familiar: supply, demand and global instability.

September 9, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sustainable Fisheries Law

I teach Sustainable Natural Resources Law in the spring.  Here's a new publication brought to my attention by Gerd Winter that looks like a great fit for introducing students to the fisheries area.  A slightly edited summary of the book courtesy of Gerd appears below:

Towards Sustainable Fisheries Law

As most of the fish resources in the world's oceans are constantly depleting, the development of effective and efficient instruments of fisheries management becomes crucial. Against this background, the IUCN
Environmental Law Programme proudly presents its latest publication in the IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper Series, edited by Gerd Winter, a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, which focuses on a legal approach towards sustainable and equitable management of fish resources.

This publication is a result of an interdisciplinary endeavour with worldwide participation studying multiple demands on coastal zones and viable solutions for resource use with emphasis on fisheries. The book consists of six case studies including Indonesia, Kenya, Namibia, Brazil, Mexico and the EU, which are preceded by an analysis of the international law requirements concerning fisheries management. The final part of the book summarizes the case studies and proposes a methodology for diagnosing problems in existing management systems and developing proposals for reform.

Towards Sustainable Fisheries Law thus helps the reader to learn more about the international legal regime for fisheries management that is currently in place, improves the understanding of the institutional and legal problems related to fisheries management that countries face at the national level, and provides guidance for sustainable use of fish resources through a "legal clinic" for fisheries management.

The book was published as IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 74. Free copies can be ordered at the IUCN office or downloaded (2,05 MB) from the IUCN website at: Toward Sustainable Fisheries Law

September 9, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Biodiversity, Books, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, North America, Physical Science, Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

World Council of Churches Statement on Eco-Justice and Ecological Debt

Many of us attempt to bring ethical perspectives to bear on issues raised by our classes in addition to ecological and economic perspectives.  Although it may be a bit late for those of you who have already started class, here is the most recent statement by the World Council of Churches on eco-justice and ecological debt.  In a related, but fascinating, note, the WCC as part of its current  programme work on poverty, wealth and ecology is attempting to articulate a consumption and greed line -- in addition to the more typical poverty line.  This would provide practical spiritual guidance on when, in Christian terms, too much is too much.  Check it out!!!

WCC Statement on eco-justice and ecological debt


The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee adopted a "Statement on eco-justice and ecological debt" on Wednesday, 2 Sept. The statement proposes that Christians have a deep moral obligation to promote ecological justice by addressing our debts to peoples most affected by ecological destruction and to the earth itself. The statement addresses ecological debt and includes hard economic calculations as well as biblical, spiritual, cultural and social dimensions of indebtedness.

 The statement identifies the current unprecedented ecological crises as being created by humans, caused especially by the agro-industrial-economic complex and the culture of the North, characterized by the consumerist lifestyle and the view of development as commensurate with exploitation of the earth's so-called "natural resources". Churches are being called upon to oppose with their prophetic voices such labeling of the holy creation as mere "natural resources".

 The statement points out that it is a debt owed primarily by industrialized countries in the North to countries of the South on account of historical and current resource-plundering, environmental degradation and the dumping of greenhouse gases and toxic wastes.

In its call for action the statement urges WCC member churches to intervene with their governments to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adopt a fair and binding deal at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, in order to bring the CO2 levels down to less than 350 parts per million (ppm).

 Additionally the statement calls upon the international community to ensure the transfer of financial resources to countries of the south to refrain from oil drilling in fragile environments. Further on, the statement demands the cancellation of the illegitimate financial debts of the southern countries, especially for the poorest nations as part of social and ecological compensation.

In a 31 August hearing on "ecological debt" during the WCC Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Dr Maria Sumire Conde from the Quechua community of Peru shared some ways that the global South has been victimized by greed und unfair use of its resources. In the case of Peru, Sumire said mining has had particularly devastating effects, such as relocation, illness, polluted water,and decreasing biodiversity.

 The concept of ecological debt has been shaped to measure the real cost that policies of expansion and globalization have had on developing nations, a debt that some say industrialized nations should repay. Dr Joan Martinez Alier, a professor at the Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain, said climate change, unequal trade, "bio-piracy", exports of toxic waste and other factors have added to the imbalance, which he called "a kind of war against people around the world, a kind of aggression."

 Martinez went on saying: "I know these are strong words, but this is true." He beseeched those present, at the very least not to increase the existing ecological debt any further.

 The WCC president from Latin America, Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega of Cuba, said ecological debt was a spiritual issue, not just a moral one. "The Bible is an ecological treatise" from beginning to end, Ortega said. She described care for creation as an "axis" that runs through the word of God. "Our pastoral work in our churches must be radically ecological," she said.

 Full text of the statement

 More on the 31 August hearing on ecological debt

 WCC countdown to climate justice

WCC programme work on poverty, wealth and ecology

More information on the 26 August - 2 September 2009 Central Committee meeting


September 3, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Religion, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good news: world fisheries could avoid collapse by using new management tools in both developed and developing countries

Planet Ark reported that Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University and colleagues are publishing a paper in Science that suggests world fisheries may avoid a total global collapse by using proven management tools in both the developed countries and the developing countries.  This is notable because Dr. Worm had predicted total global collapse of fish and seafood populations by 2048.  But, the effort will require rebuilding 63 percent of fish stocks worldwide and applying proven management tools not only to the ecosystems primarily affected by developed countries, but also those primarily affected by developing countries.   These management tools include: restrictions on gear like nets so that smaller, younger fish can escape; limits on the total allowable catch; closing some areas to fishing; certifying fisheries as sustainable; offering shares of the total allowable catch to each person who fishes in a specified area. Researchers indicated that fishing limits must be set well below the maximum sustainable yield, which is the highest number of fish that can be caught in an area without hurting the species' ability to reproduce. Maximum sustainable yield should be an absolute upper limit, rather than a target that is frequently exceeded.

Worm's optimism was provisional, because the current research only looked at about one-quarter of the world's marine ecosystems, mostly in the developed world where data is plentiful and management can be more readily monitored and enforced. Of the 10 major ecosystems studied, scientists found five marine areas had cut the average percentage of fish they take, relative to estimates of the total number of fish. Two other ecosystems were never overexploited, leaving three areas overexploited. The fisheries in the study were the Iceland Shelf, Northeast U.S. Shelf, North Sea, Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf, Celtic-Biscay Shelf, Baltic Sea, Southern Australia Shelf, Eastern Bering Sea, California Current, and New Zealand Shelf. 

Strict fisheries management in the developing world has put increasing pressure on fisheries controlled by developing countries, particularly African countries that struggle to provide food for their populations.  To deploy effective fisheries management globally will require addressing the management capacity and governance problems of developing countries and reducing the poverty that makes effective management and governance so difficult.

July 30, 2009 in Africa, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Water News from Water Advocates

New Congressional Legislation: Strong support for drinking water and
sanitation continues on Capitol Hill, where legislation introduced in
the Senate would put the U.S. in the lead among governments in
responding to the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation.
Companion legislation is expected soon in the House. Titled "The Senator
Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009" (S624), the bipartisan bill
introduced by Senators Durbin, Corker and Murray on March 17 seeks to
reach 100 million people with safe water and sanitation by 2015 and to
strengthen the capacity of USAID and the State Department to carry out
the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005.

USAID: Dozens of USAID missions, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa and
Southeast Asia, are gearing up to utilize increased appropriations to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, after years of
lacking the tools to help extend safe, sustainable water, sanitation and
hygiene. USAID this past month announced a number of initiatives
including: new strategic partnerships to extend water and sanitation
access to the urban poor in Africa and the Middle East (with
International Water Association), new multilateral revolving funds (in
the Philippines), new collaborations (with Rotary International) and a
new USAID Water Site http://tinyurl.com/newUSAIDwater.

Appropriations: Through the recently passed Omnibus legislation,
Congress appropriated $300 million for Fiscal Year 2009, for "water and
sanitation supply projects pursuant to the Senator Paul Simon Water for
the Poor Act of 2005." As with last year's appropriations, forty percent
of the funds are targeted for Sub-Saharan Africa. Priority will remain
on drinking water and sanitation in the countries of greatest need.
Report language suggests increased hiring of Mission staff with
expertise in water and sanitation. It also recommends that $20 million
of the appropriation be available to USAID's Global Development Alliance
to increase its partnerships for water and sanitation, particularly with

In Fiscal Year 2010, a broad spectrum of U.S. nonprofit organizations,
corporations and religious organizations are urging $500 million to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, as part of an
overall increase of foreign development assistance, a level also called
for by InterAction and the "Transition to Green" Report.

For more water news, visit Drink Water for Life.

April 2, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The New Subsistence Society

Sometimes its a good idea to stand back and contemplate the universe.  Today's early news that the Dow Jones Industrial Index took another header because of AIG's $60+ billion loss prompts me to do that. 
What is the vector of our society?  What will it look like after all the dust has settled?  It is not just the financial crisis that prompts me to contemplate this.  Although the phrase is over-used, we are in the midst of a perfect storm -- a global economy that creates and distributes goods and services through the internet, computerized machines and cheap labor virtual collapse of the financial system, the advent of peak oil, and the climate crisis.  How will all of these things cumulatively affect our future?

We've lived with the first problem for decades now -- what do people do as they  become less and less important to production of goods and services.  The science fiction of our times: what happens when people and their primary asset, labor, becomes virtually superfluous.  Certainly countries with high labor costs relative to Asia and South America already are beginning to experience the problem.  Computerized machines can plant, water, and harvest the fields; robots can make the cars and prefabricated housing; department stores, bank branches, car dealers, even retail grocery stores can be replaced by internet marketing; 100 law professors lecturing to law students and 1000 college professors lecturing to college students is more than enough -- creating the prospect of a British or continental education system, with those professors raised to unseemly heights and the remainder left to do the grunge work of tutors; even more radically, 100 K-12 teachers can teach a nation of students with computer graded exams, if we believe that convergent answers are the goal of education; priests and ministers can be replaced by TV showmen and megachurch performers. 

So what do the other 6.95 billion of us do?  Now, we consume.  Voraciously.  If we don't, then the basics can be provided by a very few and the rest of us become unwanted baggage.  A non-consumer is a drag on the system.  We depend on the velocity of money, excess consumption, and inefficiency to provide each of us with a job and to maintain the current economy.

And what happens when money moves at a crawl, when people stop consuming, when production becomes life-threatening to the planet, and when a key resource for production, oil, reaches the point of no return???  The answer is a new subsistence economy.  A new world where a few are need to produce, a few more can consume, and the remainder have no economic role and are left to subsist as best they can.

Admittedly, it will be subsistence at a higher level -- through the internet, computerization, and technology, each of us will have the capacity to do things for ourselves that are beyond the imagination of today's impoverished subsistence farmers.  But, relative to those who own all of the means of production, a few entertainers (be they basketball players, lecturers, moviestars, or mega-church leaders), and a few laborers (building the machines, computers, the information infrastructure and doing basic and applied research), we will all be poor.  Perhaps only relatively and perhaps only in material terms.  But poor, living at a subsistence level, consuming food from our own gardens, building our own houses, wearing clothes for function not fashion, educating our own children through the internet, capturing essential power through distributed energy, and buying very little of goods that are bound to be too expensive for most -- probably just computers.  It won't necessarily be bad.  Perhaps we can refocus on relationships, family, community, art, music, literature, and life, rather than define ourselves in terms of our job and our things.  Perhaps we can refocus on spirituality instead of materialism. Who knows?  Maybe the new society won't be such a bad thing after all -- at least if we insist that the few who have the privilege of production have a responsibility to share the wealth with the many.

March 2, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama's "State of the Union" Speech

The White House has published the "Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress" as prepared for delivery on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009. White House link   The President called for Congress to send him a cap and trade bill to address climate change and stressed investments in clean energy as the path to America's future.  What a difference from last year!

As the President says about the long term investments that are absolutely critical to our economic future:

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.  And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.  We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it.  New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.  And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink.  We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices.  But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win.  Millions of jobs depend on it.  Scores of communities depend on it.  And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy.  But this is America.  We don’t do what’s easy.  We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

Continue reading

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Creating a Sustainable Society - the Role of Social Entrepreneurs and Volunteers

Today, the House Committee on Education and Labor had a Congressional hearing on volunteerism. Both Van Jones and Cheryl Dorsey testified to the value of volunteerism for the future of the green movement and social entrepreneurship.  Cheryl Dorsey’s video testimony can be found here Dorsey video link  and her written testimony is here. Dorsey written link  Van Jones’ video testimony is here Jones video link  and his written testimony is here.Jones' written link   Although we frequently focus on using regulation to control traditional profit-oriented business endeavors, it's good to remind ourselves that social entrepreneurs and volunteers can make a real difference in the quality of life in our communities as well as the quality of the environment.

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, North America, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

Congratulations to all of the participants in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition held at Pace University during the last few days.  Roughly 70 law schools participated in the competition, which featured a difficult and oft-times confusing problem about salvage of a Spanish shipwreck.  The law covered by the problem included admiralty law, administrative law, international law such as the UNESCO treaty and the Law of the Sea, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and for good measure, the Submerged Military Craft Act.  Just typing that list makes me tired!

The learning is in participating, but the honors for Best Briefs go to University of Houston, Georgetown, and University of California at Davis, with Houston winning overall Best Brief.  The Best Oralist Honor goes to Louisiana State University.  The final round of the competition featured Lewis & Clark law school, University of Utah, and Louisiana State. Lewis & Clark prevailed, winning the overall competition for the 2d time in a row.  If I recall correctly, that may be the first back to back win.  Congratulations to everyone!

The students of Pace University deserve special mention for sacrificing their ability to compete and for running a flawless competition.  More details can be found at the NELMCC site.

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Red Queens or Court Jesters: How Species Evolve

A review in this month's science by Michael Benton discusses two prominent models of evolution.Science article  The abstract and some snippets of the article are below:

Evolution may be dominated by biotic factors, as in the Red Queen model, or abiotic factors, as in the Court Jester model, or a mixture of both. The two models appear to operate predominantly over different geographic and temporal scales: Competition, predation, and other biotic factors shape ecosystems locally and over short time spans, but extrinsic factors such as climate and oceanographic and tectonic events shape larger-scale patterns regionally and globally, and through thousands and millions of years. Paleobiological studies suggest that species diversity is driven largely by abiotic factors such as climate, landscape, or food supply, and comparative phylogenetic approaches offer new insights into clade dynamics. 

Continue reading

February 5, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Energy, North America, Physical Science, South America | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chartering Sustainable Transnational Corporations

This link connects to a paper I just posted on SSRN.  I presented the paper at the 6th Colloquium of the IUCN International Academy of Environmental Law in Mexico City in November 2008.  I am submitting a short version of the paper for possible publication in a book incorporating papers presented at the conference on the theme of Alleviating Poverty and Environmental Protection.  And I am preparing a more complete and elaborate version for possible law review publication.  I would deeply appreciate your comments on the subject of how we ensure that transnational corporations act in a sustainable manner and the obstacles or concerns with the approach I suggest.  SSRN link

Using a recent innovative Oregon sustainable corporation law as a springboard, this article argues for requiring all transnational corporations to be chartered as sustainable corporations. Given the far-reaching effects of their operations and their uniquely powerful role, the global wealth that has been accumulated in these organizations must be fundamentally redirected toward creating a sustainable world. As a privilege of doing transnational business, transnational corporations should be required to incorporate environmental and social responsibility into their corporate charters-the document that sets forth the prime mission of the corporation and its directors, essentially baking sustainability into the corporate DNA of transnational corporations.

To be both effective and to harness the entrepreneurial creativity of these organizations, the sustainable corporation charter must be implemented per provisions that require transnational corporations to develop corporate sustainability strategies in accordance with the guidance provided by the implementing provisions. The implementing provisions should also require that the transnational corporations monitor and report in a standardized manner compliance with the corporate sustainability strategy, with sustainability-related laws, and with nonbinding environmental, labor, human rights, corruption, and other sustainability-related standards.

The sustainable corporation charter requirement should be imposed as a matter of international law, through an international convention and administered by an international commission. The requirements should be directly applicable to transnational corporations as a condition of doing transnational business. The commission should be authorized to take enforcement action directly against the corporation. In addition, both home and host nations to transnational corporations should agree to compel the corporations - either incorporated in that nation or doing business in that nation-to comply with the sustainable corporation charter requirement as a condition of doing any business. Nations that fail to join the international convention, or that fail to enforce the international convention, should be subject to mandatory trade and other economic sanctions by all signatories to the international agreement.

We can no longer allow transnational corporations to aggregate the bulk of societal wealth and then operate in an environmentally and socially irresponsible manner. The proposals in this article are one step toward turning transnational corporations into sustainable corporations.

Keywords: transnational corporations, corporate charters, multi-national corporations, sustainability, environmental, international convention, environmental assessment, voluntary compliance, environmental standards, alien tort, corporate social responsibility, human rights, international law, enforcement

February 1, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Let Clean Water Flow

Here's my church's video to launch our 2009 Drink Water for Life lenten challenge.  If you benefit from the work I do on this blog, please, please, please......take the challenge or find another way to contribute to organizations that do community-based water projects.  Church World Service or Global Ministries are great faith-based organizations.  Water for Life and Water for People are great secular groups. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water borne disease like cholera or dysentery from lack of clean water and sanitation.  Together, we can change this.  Village by village. 

Let Clean Water Flow 

January 23, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nourish the Hungry

Greenwire reported on the Madrid meeting next week that will be examining progress on addressing the worldwide food crisis -- where one of every seven people in the world is hungry.  What a wonderful time to begin to make a difference!  Although the crisis in food prices that fueled the Rome discussions last summer has abated, the long-term problem remains.  And, if the Administration is swift and sure-footed enough, President Obama can use the discussions in Madrid to signal that the United States is serious about fulfilling his inaugeral promises:

UNITED NATIONS -- One of President Barack Obama's first forays into into multilateral diplomacy will be following up on a food crisis that engulfed the world's poorest countries last year. Though food prices have fallen sharply in recent months, diplomats will gather Monday in Madrid to see whether they are keeping their promises of food aid and support for agricultural development made at U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) talks in Rome last June. "The Madrid meeting will raise the political profile of food security," said David Nabarro, coordinator of a U.N. task force established last year by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address the crisis. "The food systems of the world have been in crisis, continue to be in crisis and will go on being in crisis until we're able to create a situation where they work in the interests of poor people."

U.N. officials estimate that about 1 billion people are undernourished and at least 100 million would face imminent starvation were it not for emergency food assistance. Last year, record oil prices, burgeoning demand for food, and failing crops contributed to a upward spiral in the price of most food basics, especially rice, wheat and corn.

U.S. farm income rose by about 50 percent during the boom, but most of the world suffered. Food prices have since plunged, but Nabarro told reporters here yesterday that food commodities are still much more expensive than they were in decades past. And officials fear that under-investment in agriculture expected during the current market slump is only setting the stage for greater problems down the road. "The food crisis is not the story that's on the tip of everybody's tongue right now. It's the financial crisis," said J.B. Reed of the nonprofit Nuru Project, which staged a New York photography exhibit last month showing images of starving people and Third World food riots. "But the financial crisis has implications for the food crisis."

Average food prices more than doubled worldwide over three years. Farm subsidies in wealthy countries, the popularity of biofuels and market speculators were among the culprits blamed. But a long neglect of the importance of Third World agricultural productivity by organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development contributed greatly. For 20 years, aid efforts have focused mostly on industrial infrastructure, figuring the developing world could simply import cheap food grown efficiently in the West. Agriculture enjoyed about 20 percent of international aid dollars back in the late 1980s, but skewed priorities have shrunk its share to just barely 3 percent today. FAO estimates that by mid-2008 food prices were 64 percent higher than 2002 levels. The only other time prices shot up so quickly was in the wake of the oil shock of the 1970s.

In total, governments pledged about $6.6 billion in new spending on food aid and agriculture programs in Rome last year. The lion's share of commitments came from Washington, which pledged to spend $5 billion over the next two years. Since then, the global financial crisis has diverted hundreds of billions of dollars in government resources to shoring up banks and protecting deposits. Meanwhile, collapsed commodity prices and rising food stocks have largely eliminated any sense of urgency. "Actually, most countries that pledged in Rome have followed up, but the follow-up has been a lot slower than we would like," Nabarro said. "One of the things we will be doing in Madrid is tracking that follow-up." Experts who have stayed focused on food security issues worry that the financial crisis will affect future food production more than many appreciate. Falling prices and weaker demand mean farmers in developed countries have little incentive to grow more this year. And the tight credit environment makes it difficult for farmers to finance expanded yields even if they wanted to....

U.N. leaders have said that between $20 billion and $40 billion in new annual spending on agriculture is needed over the next several years to keep up with population growth and expanding demand as nations like India and China grow richer. Nabarro said he hopes at least some new commitments for additional spending will materialize in Madrid, with the new Obama administration playing a lead role. "We take a view that in a world where 14 percent of the population remains hungry ... that is an extremely unsatisfactory situation," Nabarro said. "That is a representation of a crisis."

Lower food costs give public policymakers some breathing room as they focus on halting the decline in the global economy, which began in the developed world but is now hitting developing countries hard, as well. Agricultural economists predict that prices for most food commodities will stay low for much or all of 2009. "World production of wheat, maize and rice is expected to exceed demand and contribute to a partial replenishment of stocks," experts with the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs say in their latest global economic outlook. But economists warn that once the financial system recovers, so will food markets. And price declines over the last few months still don't make up for much of the increases experienced over three years. The World Food Programme's budget for 2009 is estimated at $5.2 billion, a record....

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Most of the green team confirmed today: Jackson, Sutley, and Clinton remain

E & E News reported:

The Senate unanimously confirmed seven of President Barack Obama's Cabinet picks today, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but postponed debate on his nominees to lead the State Department, U.S. EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality...In a post-inauguration session, the Senate quickly approved Chu, Salazar, Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also scheduled a 3 p.m. roll call vote for tomorrow on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's nominee to be secretary of the State Department.... The Senate did not take up two other Obama nominations: Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA administrator and Nancy Sutley to be the chairwoman of the White House CEQ. Both nominees did not face significant scrutiny during their confirmation hearings last week, leaving several Senate Republican and Democratic leadership aides today searching for answers about who was holding up the two Obama environmental picks....Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supports both nominees and isn't sure who raised the objection to Jackson and Sutley's confirmations, though he said the objection to Sutley being confirmed today was because her position is not Cabinet-level.

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Visitors from Mozambique and Inaugural Awe

Today I had the pleasure as Director of our law school's Certificate Program in Law and Government to host two visitors from Mozambique through the International Leadership Visitor Program funded by the State Department.  This program focuses on bringing emerging leaders from developing countries concerned with good governance to the United States, to expose them first-hand to various aspects of American governance.  Last year, we hosted 16 visitors from more than a dozen African countries.  Today's session was more informal and a bit more manageable.

Our visitors were the Governor of a northern province and the second in command of a major department within the national government.  They were interested in learning how the United States trains its graduate or advanced students in law and government.  We were able to share some aspects of our program, including attending and speaking with my first year Lawmaking Process class.  They were also fascinated by how the United States is evolving with its election of President Obama. 

The treat, of course, for me was to learn first-hand something about Mozambique, its politics and policy, and role in Africa.  Certainly, its thorough integration of woman into the power structure and into all aspects of administration is a lesson for Americans as well as other Africans.  This is beginning to happen here, witness Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, the corps of talented Governors through the US and the league of women joining the Obama administration.  But, until a woman stands where President Obama stood today, we still lag behind virtually every developed country in the world -- and many, such as Mozambique, in the developed world.  Women took their place in the struggle for independence in Mozambique -- even on the battlefield.  They have continued to serve in Parliament and throughout government, with stature and an assured equality that American woman still lack.

Their challenge is to solidify their independence and their emerging democracy -- and to solve the problem of poverty.  There, President Obama gave them reason to hope: "To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.  And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our boders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect.  For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

As you who read this blog regularly no doubt realize, these words, especially about providing clean water and reducing our consumption of resources, were music to my ears.  And perhaps to yours.

We have a President who in the midst of the raging storms of the failure of our economy and two wars, understands that "each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."  That the work to be done includes the promise that "[w]e will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."  That "we will work tirelessly...to roll back the specter of a warming planet."

As my new friends from Mozambique realize, President Obama has not become just an American president, but he is today the most important leader of the whole world.  Not just by virtue of our relative prosperity and military power, but by virtue of our willingness to turn the page of history and to pledge to live up to our responsibilities to people seeking peace and justice and equality and means to enjoy their full measure of happiness throughout the world.

Today, my friends, let us celebrate with all of our new friends...and pledge ourselves to making this vision become a reality, in law, in policy, and in how we conduct our obscure, everyday lives.

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)