October 2010


I’ve certainly been enjoying nature’s little pleasures over the last few weeks.  In the last week, I hiked Kent’s Ledge twice with a colleagues and students, awoke in the AM to beautiful white snow, went for a family walk with the dogs in Montpelier’s Hubbard Park, can go leaf-peeping through my own windows, and had a fantatic starry evening stroll on an unseasonably warm evening.  After a year in China, I truly appreciate these little bits of nature, and, even more than that, my family and I simply so content right now.  Things are well.

And now we’re returning to China.  I’m giving a series of lectures on environmental law at Sun Yat-sen University, doing a workshop at the South China University of Technology, doing some lectures for the US Consulate in Guangzhou, helping start-up an environmental law clinic in China, and meeting with a series of NGO representative in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, among other things.  We’re starting to let our Chinese and ex-pat frineds in Guangzhou know of our upcoming trip, and everyone seems just so excited about our return.  It really creates a this overwhelming warmth from afar.  While I had been some concerned about our return to China, now that it’s happening, it really confirms how much the year in the China shaped my professional interests and personality, as well as how strong our friendships in China were.

There’s a very interesting article in The Economist entitled “China’s Succession: The Next Emperor.”  It provocatively begins:

“WITH you in charge, I am at ease,” Mao Zedong is supposed to have told his successor, Hua Guofeng. It proved a disastrous choice. Mr Hua lasted a couple of years before being toppled in 1978. A decade later succession plans once again unravelled spectacularly, against a backdrop of pro-democracy unrest. Only once, eight years ago, has China’s Communist Party managed a smooth transfer of power—to Hu Jintao. Now a new transition is under way. The world should be nervous about it for two reasons: the unknown character of China’s next leader; and the brittle nature of a regime that is far less monolithic and assured than many foreigners assume.

After living in China, I agree with that last part.  The Party has a diverse set of players and political stability is a far greater fear than I had imagined.  In the article, I most appreciated the discussion of the “immensity of the task” in taking over China’s leadership, and openly wonder what socio-political future is in store for China.  In my view, China wants to be like Singapore and Taiwan (hence it’s strong stance on the latter), but China is much larger in geography and population, and must deal with the influence of the West and Hong Kong.  (See books like “China Wakes” for further discussion.)  This explains China’s slow and deliberate path in reform and opening.

At the same time, I think the article concludes incorrectly stating, “The right path for Mr Xi should be clear: relax the party’s grip on dissent, lift its shroud of secrecy and make vital economic reforms. But the rest of the world would be unwise to assume that reason will prevail.”  To speak of “reason” in the abstract or in Western terms is not helpful if Chinese interests are not congruent–”The party meeting called on officials to strengthen ‘the country’s comprehensive national power’”.  The question is whether Chinese society views nationalism, stability, and ‘one China’ as primary goals and whether they can be achieved in the face of rapid and/or significant reform.

Click here for the news story about the First Annual Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship at Vermont Law School.

Control of the U.S. Senate is not the only thing at stake in the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Harry Reid (D) and the challenger Sharron Angle (R).  With Nevada in play, so is the issue of whether nuclear waste will eventually be stored in Yucca Mountain, despite the President’s opposition to Yucca Mountain as a waste storage facility.

Writes Greenwire:

Nevada leaders hoping to stop the federal government from building a high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain say they are counting on the re-election of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to keep pushing their case.

Reid is by far the most powerful and experienced member of the Nevada delegation opposing Yucca, said Bruce Breslow, the executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. Breslow said the delegation “had no clout until Senator Reid became majority leader.” Without Reid, “other states would have built an expressway to Yucca Mountain.”

The Congressional Research Service has published “Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency

I’m thrilled to see that Vermont Law School’s own Adam Moser, our LLM Fellow in the US-China Partnership in Environmental Law, has sparked a blog post by Alex Wang, NRDC’s China program director, that has been picked up on Huffington Post.  In response to a post by Moser that compared arguably divergent views on China’s actions (circus v. savior), Wang suggested there are two distinct issues in evaluating China’s efforts.  “First, what is China doing to address its contribution to global climate change?  Second, are these efforts achieving the reported levels of success?”  I would suggest that there is a third question.  Even if China’s efforts are achieving reported levels of success, given China’s rate of development and economic growth, might China’s greenhouse gases emission alone have the potential to lead to catastrophic climate events?  If so, does this and should this influence our views about China’s energy efficiency efforts?

I really want to know more about this.  This video, showing the use of Coke and Pepsi as a pesticide, is both fascinating and horrifying.  For both environmental and public health reasons, I’m concerned by the amount the chemicals finding their way into our bodies and natural environment on a daily basis.  Rumor has it that ‘Organic Coke’ is on the horizon, and from a marketing standpoint I’m not surprised.  Pesticide residue limits on commodities are set by the FDA, but now I need to research the amount of pesticides that actually end up in finished processed products, especially drinks.  Since the Organic Food Production Act is a production process statute (the organic label is not based on product testing for pesticide residue), I’d like to know the amount of pesticide in, for example, a bottle of organic juice versus conventional juice verus Coke/Pepsi.

See here.

The First Annual Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship was simply a resounding success.  Bringing together environmental law professors from both the United States and Canada, at various stages of their careers, Vermont Law School provided the perfect collegial forum for the sharing of our works-in-progress and scholarly ideas.  I think everyone is already looking forward to next year’s event, and we expect interest in the Colloquium to grow.

Thank you to all those that presented and all my colleagues at Vermont who attended and moderated.  It was a truly a great time.

Green Law posts:

Pace Law School proudly hosted its annual Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Lecture on October 18, this year featuring renowned scholar James Salzman, the Samuel F. Mordecai Professor of Law and Nicholas Institute Professor of Environmental Policy at Duke University. His lecture, entitled What is the Emperor Wearing? A Critical Look at the Potential of Ecosystem Services for Environmental Protection, offered an insightful glimpse into the increasingly popular field of payments for ecosystem services (PES). Using the New York City drinking water supply system as an historic example of the economic potential of natural capital, Professor Salzman described the many ways in which mechanisms designed to incorporate ecosystem services may be institutionalized and strengthened. Perhaps more importantly, he skillfully identified many of the factors preventing the more widespread appreciation for these services – from market failures to institutional impediments.

Given the rapidly deteriorating state of ecosystems and natural environments throughout the global community – and the associated loss of invaluable economic and environmental services – Professor Salzman’s remarks were timely and broadly applicable. While conscious of the limitations and theoretical problems inherent to the PES model, Professor Salzman convinced us of its usefulness as a  framework for assessing and integrating environmental priorities into our societal structures.

To listen to this impressive lecture in its entirety, please click here.

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