Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources Newsletter

Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources Newsletter: Monday, April 8, 2013

Message From The Director

It has been a remarkable few months at the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR). We have launched our CLEAR Scholar of the Week feature which reviews the work of critical environmental authors, and this has proved quite popular with our CLEAR affiliates. Our students have been working on multiple projects and preparing papers on environmental law, and our professors have been even busier than usual. Professor Hornstein has been selected to prepare the first massive online open course in environmental law (for undergrads), and Professor Savasta-Kennedy has returned from her Fulbright trip to China to follow up on ongoing projects between UNC and the Far East. CLEAR was invited to participate as an international leader in Peru's climate change adaptation planning at INTERCLima, and UNC continues to revise and increase its offerings in environment, energy, and natural resources, as well as externship offerings for students, including a new one at the Research Triangle EPA Office of Air Quality Policy.

Last, in February we presented our "Hero of the Environment" award to those in the State of North Carolina and at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) who have worked for over a decade on a regulatory and litigation strategy to improve North Carolina's air.

You may notice a new look to the newsletter which comes from our conversion to a fully electronic version that can be downloaded and read on small screens as well as large. If you haven't been to the CLEAR website lately (http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/clear/), I encourage you to do so. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy!

Featured Article

The Many Faces of China Remembered

Last spring, Professor Maria Savasta-Kennedy spent the semester teaching lawyering skills and environmental law to Chinese graduate students in Xi'an, China through the Fulbright program. She was accompanied by her husband, Professor Joe Kennedy, also teaching in the Fulbright program, and the couple's three children, all of whom have learned to speak Chinese through the Mandarin immersion program at the local public school in Chapel Hill. We asked Professor Savasta-Kennedy what about her experience made a lasting impression.

China is a land of many faces. Certainly in the sense of large crowds - you feel the press of 1.3 billion people in any given city or town - but also in the sense that there are many different Chinas within that vast country. For example, China is the most populated country in the world, yet it contains large areas that are sparsely habited. We lived and taught in Xi'an, a city of about 8.5 million people that lies at the end of the ancient silk road in the northwest of China. Xi'an was the seat of the first emperor of China, Emperor Qin, who united the country in the third century BC. The Emperor commissioned local artisans to build for him a vast terra cotta army to guard him in the afterlife. The discovery of those terra cotta warriors in 1974 by three brothers digging for water in a field put Xi'an on the map as a tourist destination.

In addition to these life size relics of ancient China, Xi'an has all of the amenities and problems of most modern cities in China; the population is educated, the city is under constant construction, the streets are noisy and the skies are hazy. (The traffic is intense - crossing the street is not for the faint hearted). Even hiking outside the city was a crowd experience. Walking on mountain trails in the local Qinling Mountains we found ourselves surrounded by throngs of people in what felt more like a parade than a nature hike; people were chatting, sharing food and playing music all along the trail. It was definitely a community, shared experience. Interestingly, a Chinese colleague who had spent a year in the US confided that he found the relative emptiness of neighborhood streets and parks in the U.S. unsettling and even a bit frightening.

But despite being the most populated country on Earth, vast areas of China are relatively uninhabited, particularly in the West. The Mongolian region of China, which occupies 12% of China's total landmass and is nearly the size of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico put together, has a population of 20 people per square kilometer. Similarly, Tibet covers an area larger than France and Spain combined (more than 1.2 million square kilometers), and has a population of 2 people per square kilometer. By contrast, North Carolina has a population of 76 people per square kilometer. My family had the opportunity to travel to some of the remote areas in the West and see a different side of China. We went on a spectacular camel trek in the Gobi desert, and traveled by horseback for several hours to reach a group of nomadic Tibetan yak herders in the high plains of Ganzou. We stayed overnight with the yak herders, seeing their remarkably sustainable life style first-hand. The herders live in tents made from yak hair, eat yak meat, yak butter and cheese, and use yak dung as fuel to cook food and heat the tents. The clear skies and green plains that framed their vistas were a marked and welcome change from the crowds and pollution we experienced in the city.

Tibetan Nomad Tent with Solar Panel

It is extraordinary that this way of life still exists in a country experiencing such intense and rapid development. The resulting pollution that has accompanied the progression from largely agrarian to urban society in China is exacting a steep price. Beijing's air pollution has gone off the scale with the particulate matter in the 2.5 range (which refers to fine particles posing the greatest risk to humans) hitting close to the 900 range during the winter months this year. That range is at least thirty times higher than what is deemed a safe PM 2.5 level by the World Health Organization. People were warned to stay indoors and airline flights into and out of Beijing were actually canceled because of poor visibility. The economic impacts - not to mention the hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths attributed to poor air quality (a recent estimate put the number at 1.2 million deaths per year) - are becoming harder for the government to ignore. There are many contributors to pollution, but the biggest problem is arguably coal. Fully 75%-80% of China's electrical power still comes from coal. Comparatively, the US figure in 2011 was around 42%. Moreover, China is the world's biggest steel producer and those plants run on coal.

In some ways pollution is the great equalizer in China. No one has drinkable water and millionaires and poor laborers alike breath the polluted air in Beijing. However, pollution hits the poor the hardest; clean water must be purchased, health care is not free, and the general living conditions, nutrition and poor health care make poor people more vulnerable to the effects of pollution. Thus, although lacking the racial element of the environmental injustice experienced by underrepresented communities in the U.S., China's poor are clearly disproportionately bearing the burdens of the country's rapid development. The growing divide between the wealthy and powerful benefiting from China's transformation and those left behind is a palpable source of tension.

Yet, I saw great potential for green energy and more sustainable development. Although communism in China is evolving (the catch phrase we often heard was "Capitalism with Chinese characteristics" - a term no one could actually define), the central government has a key role to play. For example, the skies in Xi'an noticeably cleared after March 15th, which is the date central heating gets turned off across the country. As a result, the demand for electricity was scaled back, and power plants cut their operating hours. The change in air quality was remarkable. Strong government control has also resulted in effective mandates and incentive to invest in wind and solar power. We saw solar panels everywhere we went, including in remote villages. Even our Tibetan Nomad hosts had a solar panel attached to their tent. The electricity the solar panel generated was used both for powering the machine which churned the yak milk into butter, and - in a fascinating combination of ancient and modern living - for charging the family's cell phone. And at a basic level, the Chinese are much less wasteful than Americans. People simply use and waste less. A small but noticeable example is no restaurants or cafeterias provide paper napkins; you must purchase them or bring your own. And the temperature inside restaurants, stores, and office buildings was closer to the temperature outside; the over air-conditioning and stifling over-heating that we take for granted here was actually quite difficult to get used to when we returned to the U.S. Our family learned to be more frugal living in China. The electricity in our apartment was provided on a pay-as-you-go basis. This means that if you don't pay attention to how much energy you are using, the lights will go out, literally. That happened to us one Friday evening and we spent the whole weekend in the dark without power until the campus utility office opened Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. It was a lesson I know my kids won't soon forget - much more effective than my constant refrain at home to "Turn the lights out when you leave the room - you are wasting electricity!"

I will close on the note that the thriftiness we experienced in Chinese society was matched by an enormous generosity of spirit in the people we met along the way. My bright and earnest students, our thoughtful colleagues, our caring neighbors and friends, even strangers we met briefly on our travels, showed us incredible warmth and kindness. In the end, it is the individual faces of the people we encountered every day who left a lasting impression.

Recent News

CLEAR Scholar of the Week

CLEAR is excited to have recently started our Scholar of the Week program. Since last October, we have been highlighting the past scholarship of one scholar each week, introducing or re-introducing that scholar to our audience and examining the arc of their scholarship. The pieces, typically written by a Carolina Law student and focusing on three academic works, can be found on our website at http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/clear/documents/scholars/. Scholars profiled thus far include Carol M. Rose, Richard J. Lazarus, Robert V. Percival, Eileen Gauna, Daniel A. Farber, Lesley K. McAllister, Jonathan B. Wiener, Maxine A. Burkett, Noah M. Sachs, Wendy Wagner, John Copeland Nagle, Philip Berke, John D. Echeverria, Lisa Heinzerling, Alyson Craig Flournoy, Rena Steinzor, Melissa Powers, Oliver A. Houck, Catherine A. O'Neill, Marcilynn A. Burke, and William Buzbee. These short but insightful pieces provide a way to learn about trends in environmental law and adaptation scholarship while also providing students with important and analytic and writing skills. The new scholar is announced each Monday, and, starting this week we will convert to Scholar of the Month for the summer. We plan to also send this information to the listserv. You can "friend" us (UNC.CLEAR) on Facebook to get th is update as well as daily news stories.

CLEAR Honors Contributions to Clean Air in North Carolina

CLEAR formally recognized individuals for their contributions to North Carolina's success in protecting its' citizens right to clean and healthful air on February 9. The first CLEAR award was given to Attorney General Roy Cooper, as well as Marc Bernstein, Jim Gulick and Allen Jernigan in the N.C. Attorney General's Office; Laura Boothe (posthumously), George Bridgers, John Evans, Sheila Holman and Brock Nicholson at the N.C. Department of the Environment and Natural Resources; John Suttles and Gudrun Thompson at the Southern Environmental Law Center; Chris Browning, former North Carolina Solicitor General; and Professor Don Hornstein, from UNC School of Law. More information and pictures can be found at http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/clear/news/.

Attorney General Roy Cooper speaking at the award reception

The National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment

The National Council for Science and the Environment held its 13th National Conference on Science Policy and the Environment from January 15-17, 2013, in Washington, D.C. This year's topic "Disasters and Environment: Science, Preparedness, and Resilience" drew over 2000 participants from all over the world. Victor Flatt, the Tom & Elizabeth Taft Distinguished Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) was invited to present on "Environmental Emergencies: How to Manage Recent Trends of Climate Change and Urbanization."

In his remarks, Professor Flatt noted how environmental laws rarely account for so-called secondary emergencies from disasters, that is situations in which natural disasters disrupt the ability of environmental laws and systems to function, and suggested that this should be a major reform goal in the United States and around the world.

Along with Rene Nijenhuis, Humanitarian Affairs Officer from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), and Carl Bruch, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute, Professor Flatt also facilitated a broad discussion on making specific recommendations to the United Nations, and member governments, concerning what needs to be done to better manage and handle environmental emergencies. Participating in this workshop were representatives from disaster and environmental response teams worldwide, including the United Nations, the EU, Sweden, British Columbia, Boston, and the United States Naval Southern Command.

In addition to the suggestion to add emergency exception policies to environmental laws, the workshop group also proposed that resources be made available to local governments to better integrate and comprehensively plan for climate change, and all kinds of disasters, before these disasters occur.

Because of its core expertise in climate change adaptation, and the relation of climate change to natural disasters, CLEAR and Professor Flatt, along with other units at the University of North Carolina (such as the Center of Excellence for Natural Disasters and Homeland Security) have been leaders in the discussion of laws governing disaster management and relief. General information about the conference can be found at http://www.environmentaldisasters.net/.

Professor Flatt at InterCLIMA 2012

InterCLIMA, which took place in Lima, Peru Oct. 29-31, focused on the progress, challenges, priorities and guidelines for managing climate change within the country. The climate conference included many stakeholder groups and a variety of international speakers on climate change. A press release detailing Professor Flatt's involvement and a video can be found at http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/clear/news/.

Practice of Environmental Markets Class updates Carbon Trading Curriculum

Professor Flatt, building on the popularity of his innovative Carbon Trading class, has expanded the curriculum beyond carbon trading and cap-and-trade this semester to include additional environmental markets: renewable energy credits, biofuels, nutrient trading in water pollution, wetlands, and ecosystem services. In addition to law students, the class includes Mr. Kevin Chu, a senior-level undergraduate from UNC; Ms. Avery Livengood, an Environmental Planning Masters student at the Institute for the Environment; Ms. Kristin Blank, the Research & Outreach Manager at the UNC Sustainability Office; and Dr. Brian White, an assistant professor of Marine Sciences at UNC.

Professor Flatt to visit Vermont Law School and Maryland

Professor Flatt has been selected as Vermont Law School's Distinguished Environmental Scholar for Summer 2013. Spending two weeks at VLS, he will deliver a public lecture, participate in informal social events on campus, and be available to meet with students individually. Professor Flatt has also announced that he will be a Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore for the 2013-14 academic year. More on both announcements can be found at http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/clear/news/.

Professor Hornstein Chosen for First Round of MOOCs

UNC has partnered with Coursera to offer four massive open online courses (MOOCs). Professor Hornstein's Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy will be available online for free without course credit. More information can be found on the University's Campus Updates.

Student Symposium Papers Available

Eighteen students wrote papers associated with the Environmental Symposium, held as part of the Festival of Legal Learning in February. The papers cover a wide variety of environmental topics, including issues relating to water, climate change, fracking, and transportation. The papers can be found at on the Environmental Law Project website.


For more information, please visit http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/clear/ or e-mail clear@unc.edu.