February 2011

When I’ve come to Sweden in the past, I’ve stayed in the urban center of Stockholm, but this time I’m staying in the suburbs of Stockholm. The suburban sprawl has some significant differences to American sprawl. First, sidewalks, nature paths, and bike paths crisscross through the neighborhoods and homes. As opposed to walking on a sidewalk next to the street, one meanders through trees and parks on the way home. (Though it is easy to get lost.) Second, the trains are far more convenient in terms of timing and location that in the U.S. Third, the layout of neighborhoods are more organic, less rigid lines than in America, leading to narrower streets, slower traffic and a more intimate setting. This is not to say all is rosy….large mega-stores, increased vehicle usage, and a lack of walkable commercial districts.

I’m currently sitting in my Guest Researcher office at Uppsala University in Sweden, one of Europe’s oldest universities. While I got completely lost walking from my residence to the train station, I’ll absolutely loved taking the train to Uppsala and walking to my office. I then had coffee/tea with my Swedish colleagues discussing my time in China and how they could attract more American doctoral students to their environmental law program. In meeting and greeting with so many of their faculty already, I’ve been excited that so many seem interested in attending my talk on Wednesday on comparative approaches to food eco-labeling.


Just returned from a fabulously long European lunch where we discussed comparative jurisprudence related to treating state actions as public versus private, as well as different labeling policies between European states and American states and what actions would violate EU law or the American commerce clause.

I earlier posted about watching the movie Gasland, and many outlets are trying to figure out the true environmental costs of hydrofracking, a means extract natural gas. The Times now has a relatively long piece on the issue: Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers.

Tomorrow (unless I get snowed out), I’m off to Sweden. I’ll be a Guest Researcher at Uppsala University doing a comparative analysis of environmental labeling for food in the United States and Sweden. In addition to the Uppsala University Faculty of Law, I’ll be meeting with faculty at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the National Food Administration, and people at the largest organic certifies in the country. Public and private Swedish institutions attempting some interesting programs such as incorporating low-carbon standards into organic labeling and environmental standards in creating dietary guidelines. See my first paper on the topic, The Future of Food Eco-Labeling: Organic, Carbon Footprint, and Environmental Life-Cycle Analysis to be published in the Stanford Environmental law Journal.

“In gay rights victory, Obama administration won’t defend Defense of Marriage Act”


One of my students alerted me to a very cool blog. The photos alone are breathtaking. My student writes:

I’ve been meaning to send you a link to this blog since the beginning of the semester. I thought you might be interested in a foreigner’s perspective on our National Parks, spectacular places on our public lands, and our public land system in general.

Over break I did some winter camping in Yosemite NP where I met a bloke named Nathan. Nathan is from Britain and is on the first half of his two year bicycle trip from Alaska to the tip of South America. Being that he is from London, I’ve enjoyed reading about his appreciation for our public land system (as well as the amazing photography and adventures). Perhaps his blog will also inspire you to get out and enjoy more of these places with your family, It certainly does for me. Enjoy!


I’ve had a difficult time of late concentrating on ‘environmental news’ given the amazing ‘foreign affairs news.’ It’s fascinating that in part due to increased social networking technology that individuals seem better equipped to organize and gather. And this must be making some governments quite nervous. For example, outside the Middle East, the Chinese government is now dealing with some calls for revolution inspired by Middle East countries. I also wonder, given the power of social networking sites like Facebook, are these companies actively considering creating applications and technologies that would make protesters easier and more effective? Should they?

On Facebook today*, I posted my status as:

desperately desires a foreign affairs briefing. Not enough time to read all the news that I want to…Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Iran, Israel, China, Russia…Am I missing any foreign countries that had major news today?

Reports abound on the various protests in the Middle East, but this little fact in a New York Times article certainly caught my attention:

In another turn of events likely to provoke the anxiety of the West about the potential consequences of Egypt’s revolution, the government of Egypt granted permission to two Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, officials said. No Iranian warship has traversed the canal since Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and some in the Israeli government called the Iranian move an act of provocation.

And I haven’t even had time to blog about the protests in my home state of Wisconsin.

(*No, you can’t be my facebook friend.)

For the third time since taking office, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has appointed a Vermont Law School faculty or staff member to a top post in his administration. Ron Shems ’85, consulting and supervising attorney for the VLS Land Use Clinic, was named Monday as chairman of the Vermont Natural Resources Board. Shumlin also recently appointed David Mears ’91, who was director of VLS’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and Patrick Berry, who was VLS’s director of Governmental Affairs and Environmental Advancement, as commissioner of Vermont’s Fish & Wildlife Department. Read more about Shem’s appointment.

Rick Frank over a Legal Planet has a nice post entitled “Preview of Coming Attractions: American Electric Power v. State of Connecticut.” It begins:

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced the scheduling of oral arguments in the biggest (actually, the only) environmental case of its current Term: American Electric Power v. State of Connecticut. The justices will hear arguments on April 19th, and render their decision in this major climate change case by the end of June. Already, however, some interesting factoids and subplots have developed.

This case raises three distinct legal questions of interest to climate change mavens and environmental lawyers and academics generally: 1) whether the states and private land trusts that have brought this public nuisance action against the owners of Midwestern coal-fired power plants have standing to sue; 2) whether the federal common law of nuisance remains a viable legal theory in the climate change litigation arsenal or, instead, common law nuisance claims have been displaced by federal environmental statutes; and 3) whether plaintiffs’ efforts to invoke public nuisance law to address the climate change impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from defendants’ power plants constitute a non-justiciable “political question.”

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