Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources Newsletter

Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources Newsletter: Friday, September 6, 2013

Message From The Director

This has been an exciting few months at CLEAR. In addition to our distinguished scholars of the month whose work we have explored, and planning and interaction on climate change adaptation policy at the federal level, CLEAR is excited to be a part of the first Massive Online Course (MOOC) devoted to environmental law, taught by one of our faculty Don Hornstein. This provides a way to teach tens of thousands of non-law student about the importance and contours of environmental law. In other exciting news, our student Environmental Law Project for 2012 was named the best student environmental law project in the country by the ABA. CLEAR was also tapped to lead the first climate business education program held by the National Climate Center in Asheville, NC.

While we are proud of these accomplishments, there is so much more that can be done. As we are reminded almost daily, the world is being affected by climate change, and this makes CLEAR’s work in understanding and influencing the legal systems that operate in this changing world more important than ever. As always, thank you for your support.

Featured Article

Professor Donald Hornstein, the Aubrey L. Brooks Professor of Law, has been chosen to lead one of the first massive open online courses (MOOC) at Carolina, and the first Environmental Law MOOC anywhere. After teaching "Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy" at UNC and Duke as part of their undergraduate curricula for five years, he is now experimenting with an introductory, six-week MOOC version. Although only approximately ten percent of those who start MOOCs complete the course, more than 17,000 people have already signed up for the class which starts September 16. CLEAR spoke with Professor Hornstein about preparing for his MOOC.

MOOCs are really quite different from teaching the undergraduate class, and completely different from teaching law students. I'm viewing this as a way to talk about environmental law to those who don't have a chance to access it otherwise. Environmental law needs to be for more than just lawyers. With law students, you're teaching professionals - and you need to get them up to "professional-level" speed during the course. The undergraduate class is less constrained: it needs some introduction to law in general, as well as some basic economic concepts that influence environmental law. The MOOC course will be a "baby" version of the undergrad course, with many of the same issues around law introduction and theory.

One of the theories behind MOOCs is that we learn better when asked to focus on something for a short period of time. To put this into practice, each week there will be four or five video "chunckets" - videos about 10 - 15 minutes each - for participants to watch at their convenience. While teaching the undergraduate course, I've developed my own materials. The MOOC is based on those, only I've tried to make the material even more accessible. Where in a law class you might assign thirty pages of a case, in the undergraduate class, I had already pared that down to about ten; and for the MOOC, it's down to one or two pages. For participants who don't even want to read that much, I've recorded short video segments entitled the "One Minute Lawyer," which give the highlights. I do those in a t-shirt - the lawyer can be lazy if the participants are! Alternatively, when discussing theory, I "dress up" and wear a tuxedo - it gives a visual clue that the segment ties to theory.

As most people take MOOCs for personal enrichment and to gain basic knowledge in a topic, there is much less pressure on assessments. There will be two tracks: one with simple weekly multiple choice assessments. The second - a little more involved - will include peer-evaluated essays, and some basic online legal research. There are also in-video prompts to poll the "class" to ensure they understand concepts as we go along.

The MOOC will use mostly U.S. law with the seminal cases covered in each section, and will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to common law approaches, mostly nuisance, including how to read a case, and remedies
  • Property and property theory, including eminent domain, takings, to the links between property and liberty, and the legitimate use of the police power to shape private property rights
  • Information and risk, including NEPA and the EA/EIS structure
  • Water law, including both water quantity and water pollution issues
  • Pollution control, including toxics, air and water

For participants who want to conduct research, the library staff will have an online research component available. Also, the discussion forums will provide a way for participants to interact with each other and continue to explore environmental law. I'm hopeful that students with questions - whether general or specific about a situation or concern - will be able to have other participants in the class help with answers. That is one value of a MOOC - developing a targeted online community, even for a short period of time, and crowd-sourcing answers. Although it will be a busy six weeks, I'm hopeful the MOOC will have an impact.

Professor Hornstein has invited lawyers and environmental law students to participate in the MOOC discussion forums, for as much or as little time as they have. If you would like to participate in this MOOC and its discussion forums, please read these instructions. More information is available on CLEAR's website .

Recent News

UNC ELP Wins ABA SEER Student Program of the Year Award

On August 11, 2013, ELP was presented with the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources Law Student Program of the Year award for the 2012 Environmental Law Symposium. Read more about the award.

Professor Victor Flatt, Stephen J. Humes, Partner at Holland & Knight New York and Chair of the Special Committee on Annual Awards, and Holly Bannerman, J.D. Candidate Class of 2014

Professor Flatt Lecture at Vermont Law School

As part of Professor Flatt's tenure as the 2013 Vermont Law School Distinguished Environmental Scholar, he gave a lecture on "Law as a Framework for Climate Change Adaptation." The lecture, given on July 18, 2013, can be viewed on YouTube.

Environmental Scholars Update

Continuing to highlight past scholarship, CLEAR's Environmental Scholar pieces have transitioned to monthly. Since April, we have profiled Michael P. Vandenbergh, Robert R. M. Verchick, David M. Driesen, Amy Sinden, and Jody Freeman! 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/.

CLEAR submits comments on Draft National Climate Assessment Report

CLEAR has submitted comments on the Draft National Climate Assessment Report, specifically focusing on the chapters related to Adaptation, the Southeast Region, and Coastal Zone Development and Ecosystems.

CLEAR Publishes Briefing Paper on States' Tax Authority

Tyler L. Burgess has completed a paper which details states' authority to tax interstate and foreign commerce to discourage pipeline siting within their borders, using Keystone XL as an example.

CLEAR Completes Climate Change Risk Disclosure Review

CLEAR has completed a climate change risk disclosure review and is posting the completed briefing paper. R. Kyle Evans, Research Assistant and J.D. Candidate, Class of 2015, and Heather Payne, CLEAR Fellow, have analyzed current practices and possible changes related to climate change disclosure, including the types of risks reported, federal and state approaches to disclosure, voluntary disclosure mechanisms, and emerging trends.

Spring Environmental Markets Class Produces Exceptional Scholarship

CLEAR is highlighting three exceptional pieces of work from the Spring 2013 Environmental Markets Class, including a nutrient contract and two papers.

SAVE THE DATE! Offshore Energy in the Southeast Conference

October 17-18, 2013
UNC Wilmington Burney Center
Wilmington, N.C.

State and local officials, developers, consultants, attorneys, engineers, academics, and interested members of the public are invited to attend this open forum to discuss the potential offshore energy development in the Southeast and the associated infrastructure, economic, and environmental issues. For more information, please visit http://www.nccoastallaw.org/offshore_energy.html.

Registration will open in mid-September. North Carolina continuing legal education credits have been requested.

Offshore Energy in the Southeast Conference


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