Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Public trust and public access

A while back we noted an H-Environment roundtable on Andrew Kahrl's The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South. Now Kahrl has turned his attention to the North in Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline (Yale UP, 2018), and Law & History Review has a review by Deborah Dinner. Dinner writes:
On July 4, 1974, a daring, no-holds-barred activist named Ned Coll launched an amphibian assault on an exclusive Beach Club in Madison, Connecticut. Coll’s comrades included more than fifty children from nearby Hartford’s poor, majority African-American housing projects. The children, their mothers, and staff members of Revitalization Corps, an advocacy organization dedicated to racial equality and justice for the poor, were clothed in bathing suits and armed only with laughter, songs, and excitement. Yet the affluent white parents on the beach saw the newcomers’ entry as an ambush and quickly retreated, children in tow, to their private club. The episode constituted one highlight of Coll’s campaign to win public access to the beaches along the shoreline of a state plagued by extreme wealth inequality.
A somewhat obscure common law doctrine—newly and hotly contested in the 1970s—rested at the heart of Coll’s creative protest of the Madison Beach Club. The public trust doctrine...

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The California ascendancy: Explaining world leadership in environmental law and policy

[A guest book review from Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith:]

In the newest addition to the Studies in American Politics series from Princeton University Press, David Vogel in California Greenin’: How the Golden State Became an Environmental Leader (Princeton UP, 2018) asks how it is that California has had such success in protecting its environment and has become a world leader in making and implementing environmental policy and law.

Vogel sketches boldly on a large canvas:
This book describes what is in many respects a remarkable success story. It demonstrates how a state government has been able to overcome substantial obstacles and enact a wide range of regulations that have made measurable - though admittedly uneven – progress in protecting its environment and improving the quality of life of its residents. Although California has often seemed on the verge of ecological (as well as economic) catastrophe, it has proven remarkably resilient. The state’s ability to remain the most important source of environmental policy innovation in the United States over so many decades and across such a diverse range of policy areas is a significant accomplishment.  It is worth understanding why and how this particular state came to play such an important leadership role in this area, as well as the broader policy implications of such leadership [p. 6]. 
One of those implications, Vogel writes, is that the story of California’s ascendancy holds lessons for the world:
What happens in California…has a global impact.  During the 1980s, the relative stringency of California’s vehicle emissions standards was an important reason why Germany chose to support the adoption of similar standards by the European Economic Community… More recently, according to…a Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Mexico, “the rest of the global economy is looking to California, as one of the world’s largest economies, to take the lead” in addressing the risks of global climate change.  The state has come to play an increasingly active international role [p. 8, citations omitted].
When it comes to explaining how and why California has become such a successful and resilient law and policy leader Vogel focuses on three factors he considers to be interconnected in varying ways at different times in the state’s history, depending on the issues being addressed.  

One is the political mobilization of California’s citizens, most especially in the late 1960s and 1970s.  A second is the support for environmental policy initiatives provided at critical moments by least some important segments of an often divided business community.  And a third is the growth over time of the state’s capacity to design and implement programs of resource management and environmental regulation, in some cases in state agencies recognized as world leaders in the work they do [1].

This is obviously a provocative thesis and it may well keep students of the history of California environmental law and policy busy for some time to come.  But it also and immediately raises the question of why, if the story of California’s ascendancy, which on Vogel’s telling has its roots in the late nineteenth century, is so remarkable and potentially so influential, the story hasn’t been told before now.  

The answer is that the story has been told, at least in part, twice before, although Vogel chooses not to engage seriously with either prior account [2]. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Water rights in the Mexican Supreme Court

Peter Reich recently posted an English-language abstract for his "Water Rights in the Mexican Supreme Court during the Postrevolutionary Era: 1918-1946":
This book chapter analyzes the Supreme Court of Mexico’s development of a “national waters” jurisprudence after the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution through judicial review of amparo cases (challenges to official action). Although the Constitution of 1917 generally defined bodies of water within the country’s boundaries as property of the nation, the Court had to apply this provision to specific disputes between state or local bureaucrats and particular landholders for access control. Competition over springs, storm water, groundwater, drinking water, and infrastructure, as well as problems unique to communal resource ownership and petroleum exploitation, raised questions about how much the government could limit individual uses on behalf of the public. The author concludes that despite the dramatic ideological conflicts of the postrevolutionary period, the Supreme Court usually decided cases according to traditional property and evidence concepts regardless of political trends.
The full book chapter is in Spanish, but Reich is at work on a revised English version. We'll keep you updated.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Now published - The Tragedy of the Commons at 50: Context, Precedents, and Afterlife

Last June we held a conference at TAU Law to explore the history of commons thought: The Tragedy of the Commons at 50: Context, Precedents, and Afterlife. I'm happy to report that the papers have now been published in the latest issue of Theoretical Inquiries in Law, edited by Carol Rose and myself, available here. I'll post more on the individual articles later; in the meantime here's the table of contents (the issue also has a couple of additional unrelated articles not listed below):

The Banality of the Commons: Efficiency Arguments Against Common Ownership Before Hardin
Stuart Banner
Before the Tragedy of the Commons: Early Modern Economic Considerations of the Public Use of Natural Resources
Nathaniel Wolloch
Commons and Environmental Regulation in History: The Water Commons Beyond Property and Sovereignty
Alice Ingold

Cold-War Commons: Tragedy, Critique, and the Future of the Illiberal Problem Space
Monica Eppinger
The “Commons” Discourse on Marine Fisheries Resources: Another Antecedent to Hardin’s “Tragedy”
Harry N. Scheiber
Savagery, Civilization, and Property: Theories of Societal Evolution and Commons Theory
David B. Schorr
Historicizing Elinor Ostrom: Urban Politics, International Development and Expertise in the U.S. Context (1970-1990)
Fabien Locher
Indigenous Peoples, Political Economists and the Tragedy of the Commons
Michel Morin
Commons and Cognition
Carol M. Rose
Confronting Hardin: Trends and Approaches to the Commons in Historiography
Giacomo Bonan
Give Us Back Our Tragedy: Nonrivalry in Intellectual Property Law and Policy
Oren Bracha
Re-romanticizing Commons and Community in Israeli Discourse: Social, Economic, and Political Motives
Amnon Lehavi
Garrett Hardin

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Protection for polluters

“Roast Yard no. 2” in Copper Cliff (c. 1903),
providing a good idea of the damage the heap roasting inflicted on the local environment
(City of Greater Sudbury Heritage Images, Copper Cliff Museum Collection, CC0115)
Mark Kuhlberg and Scott Miller recently published "'Protection to the Sulphur-Smoke Tort-feasors': The Tragedy of Pollution in Sudbury, Ontario, the World’s Nickel Capital, 1884–1927" in the Canadian Historical Review. First, the abstract:
While there are many tales of mining companies polluting the Canadian communities in which they have operated, Sudbury’s early history stands out. It is arguably the most extreme example of an industry dictating to government how the latter dealt with the local pollution problem–in this case, sulphur dioxide emissions. The capstone achievement was the creation of an extrajudicial solution to the problem that permanently suspended the legal rights of residents seeking redress for their grievances. Moreover, the Ontario government was duplicitous in this affair–namely, by zealously luring settlers to the region in an effort to develop farming there even though it was acutely aware of the local pollution problem. Finally, this story is truly tragic because the pollution need never have happened to the extent that it did. The provincial politicians knew full well that the means existed–within a short jaunt of Sudbury no less–to mitigate the problem, but the politicians refused to force the mining firms to adopt them. Retelling Sudbury’s story thus highlights how the Ontario government’s decision to grant the mining firms practical impunity to pollute the local environment–both human and non-human–was a matter of political choice.
The article details the many legal tactics taken by the mining companies to avoid an injunction that might shut down their operations, the most extreme of which was the "extrajudicial solution" mentioned above. Said solution was one which has also reared its head in recent times - compulsory arbitration. The article explains the Ontario Act to Provide Compensation for Damage caused by Sulphur Fumes of 1921 (citations omitted):

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

FDR and the environment

The Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law recently published an extended review by Michael Blumm of Douglas Brinkley's Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America (HarperCollins, 2016). The abstract:
Douglas Brinkley, biographer of Theodore Roosevelt and his environmental legacy, has produced a sequel on his distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). In a comprehensive ecobiography, Brinkley shows in some detail how committed an environmentalist FDR was, protecting federal lands, encouraging state conservation efforts, making wildlife protection a national priority, and dedicating the federal government to soil protection and forest replanting. Although FDR’s romance with federal dams undercuts the assertion somewhat, the Brinkley biography successfully shows that FDR has a legitimate claim to being the foremost of environmental American presidents.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The source of disenfranchisement for rural Americans

Slate's Issac Chotiner recently interviewed Eliza Griswold on her new book, Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America (Macmillan, 2018). In the interview (and presumably the book) Griswold displays a strong historical sensibility about the legal-environmental roots of some of America's (and hence the world's) current predicament. An excerpt:
Isaac Chotiner: What is it that is “fracturing” America?
Eliza Griswold: These days we are hearing so much about this rural/urban divide. What does that really mean? What is the source of disenfranchisement for rural Americans? Much of it stems from natural resources. Rural Americans have paid for the energy appetites of urban Americans for more than a century.
I think a lot people in urban America would hear that and say, “Well, the people who are voting for candidates who are less interested in environmental protections are coming from rural America, and the people who are voting the opposite way are coming from urban America.” What do you say to that?
The urban American understanding of how regulation plays out on the ground in rural America is woefully inadequate. First of all, we don’t understand how for more than a century in many places in Appalachia, rural Americans have had their land ruined, as well as their health and their communities, in a search for the natural resources that feed urban Americans.
On top of that, if you talk to farmers, if you talk to Appalachian farmers … First of all, none of them simply farm, they have two jobs. Often that second job has to do with resources. They are either coal miners or former steelworkers. But how regulation plays out in their life on a daily basis has to do with farming, and farm regulation has driven many small farms out of business.
So, there’s this huge double standard where, if you talk to a pork farmer in Amity, he’s going to tell you that he has to pay $100 every time the vet comes out to take his shots. And that he has to fence his stream and the cows can’t go into the water. And he can’t drive his tractor across the stream either. Yet for more than a century, extractive industry has been able to come in and do whatever it wants to do. Until finally, here’s oil and gas, here are frackers who are actually paying money for mineral leases. Who are urban Americans to come in and wag a finger and say, “You don’t have the right to make any money off your land.” They don’t even understand how regulation practically works on the ground.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The legality and legitimacy of Japanese whaling - Part II

[Second and final part of a guest post by Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith - Part I is here.]

The second point to take away from Arch’s book is that when organized whaling became established in early modern Japan, under the watchful eye of domainal lords (daimyo), who could decide who had jurisdiction over particular whaling areas, or over bodies of whales either washed up on shore or brought to a particular shore for processing, regulation was a way of dealing with the local problems of particular businesses, and of their interrelationships, and of the ways those businesses could benefit the domain through fee exactions, as a kind of tax-like income for the domain. It was not about ensuring the continued availability of whale meat as a food source. Indeed, when it took hold and expanded during the Tokugawa peace, Japanese whaling was not primarily about food. It was about profit and about ensuring the continued supply of a wide range of whale products. Sutter is eloquent on this point:
Workers using windlasses to pull sheets of blubber off a whale for processing in the sheds behind.
Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.
Whale meat, which today sits at the heart of Japanese claims for the (legality and legitimacy of) … whaling’s deep cultural importance, was the least of it. Arch shows that whale meat, either fresh or salted, simply did not travel well and was thus of minor dietary importance during the early modern period. But whale oil served as a vital illuminant, other whale products helped the Japanese fertilize and work their fields, and, in one of this study’s most surprising insights, we learn how whale oil was also widely used as a pesticide that allowed the Japanese to intensify rice culture [p. xi].
And, again, Arch herself is more pointed:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Before Trump

Today's "This Day in Water History" has this:

Judson Harmon, c. 1912
June 11, 1895: First day of tenure of Judson Harmon as U.S. Attorney General. “Harmon issued the most explicit statement of what became known as the American doctrine of absolute sovereignty, that “the rules, principles and precedents of international law impose no liability or obligation upon the United States,” in a case involving a claim by Mexico for damages from diverting the waters of the Rio Grande.” Or, as one source put it: “US Attorney General Judson Harmon tells Mexico that the US will ‘do whatever it pleases’ with water from the Rio Grande.”

Commentary: Even for those days, this was a pretty amazing statement.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The legality and legitimacy of Japanese whaling - Part I

[Sorry for the continued silence, but thanks to Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith for pitching in with this two-part book review!]

At the end of May, the New York Times along with other major news outlets around the world
reported that a new round of scientific whaling by Japan during the austral summer of 2017-18 yielded a catch of 333 minke whales, but that of this number 122 were pregnant females and 114 were considered immature individuals [1]. The news invited and perhaps stoked outrage, which history shows can be a powerful force shaping environmental law and policy.

Japan took the whales pursuant to a scientific research exemption to the moratorium on commercial whaling enacted by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and effective in 1986 [2]. The first research program under which Japan continued whaling in the Antarctic despite and perhaps in defiance of the moratorium, a program known as JARPA-II, was found in a 2014 decision of the International Court of Justice not to meet the terms of the scientific research exemption allowed under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [3].

Japan then developed a different scientific rationale for taking whales in the Antarctic, known as NEWREP-A. It’s unclear whether the lethal sampling authorized by the permit issued by the Japanese government to pursue NEWREP-A is necessary for Japan to realize what it claims under international law are its legitimate scientific objectives. But if that is not the case then presumably at some point, if it is appropriately challenged, NEWREP-A could be found to be as illegal as JARPA-II [4].

But underlying the persistent questions about whether Japanese whaling in the Antarctic is legal in some narrow sense, based on a close reading of the relevant international law, is a prior and much larger and much more profound question. It asks whether Japan’s Antarctic whaling is a legitimate continuation of what in 2002 the director-general of the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), the entity that is the chief proponent and enabler of continued Japanese whaling, told an international conference was “a tradition of whaling which (Japan) has built up over nine thousand years.” Japan, he said, has believed so firmly and for so long in the sustainable use of whales as a food resource that she could never give up such a deeply rooted and integral cultural tradition [5]. This line of argument did not persuade the IWC to grant Japan an aboriginal (subsistence) whaling exemption to the moratorium.

The theory, then, on which Japan rests its case is that more scientific research, undergirded by the lethal taking of whales, is needed to establish the sustainable level of whale harvest that would justify lifting the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. Since the rules for whaling under a scientific research exemption from the 1986 IWC moratorium do not allow lethally sampled whales to be wasted, ICR passes the meat left over, once data are collected from dead whales, to an associated company that then tries to sell the meat [6].

If the validity of a sustainable take were ever to be established beyond a reasonable scientific doubt, the theory further holds that Japan would be able to resume commercial whaling in conformity with the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which entered into force in 1948. Perhaps other countries that have given up whaling since the 1986 moratorium went into effect would do the same, although most observers of the IWC would consider that very unlikely. If Japan’s theory is ever to translate into practice, then much obviously depends not only on the scientific validity of Japan’s NEWREP-A research program but also on the legitimacy of the claim that eating whale meat has become so integral to Japanese identity that its legal prohibition would constitute an unwarranted act of cultural discrimination and deprivation.

So, against this background, what is the real history of whaling in Japan? Is it first and foremost a story about the continuation of a centuries old cultural tradition?  And how likely is it that the whaling Japan continues to do in the name of scientific research under IWC rules will validate a long-standing dedication to the sustainable use of whales for food?