Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rhine river governance

The law of the Rhine River seems to be a fruitful topic (see here and here). The latest Water History has an article by Jennifer Schiff, "The evolution of Rhine river governance: historical lessons for modern transboundary water management". The abstract:
Transboundary rivers pose significant governing challenges to state actors, as riparian stakeholders struggle to balance their own interests in a critical resource against those of their neighbors. To that end, a case study of Europe’s Rhine River is illustrative, as it provides a strong historical example of shared water management. Indeed, the Rhine experience suggests at least two universal lessons that modern riparian actors the world over would do well to consider when balancing shared riverine interests. First, that transboundary water cooperation is supported by a shared historical legacy of water governance, suggesting that, if a governing regime does not yet exist, riparian actors should purposefully create one in anticipation of future coordination issues. Second, the case of the Rhine demonstrates that an acute environmental crisis is not a necessary condition for intensive shared riverine governance, and instead, it is extant historical collaboration that leads to later effective crisis coordination.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Water Resources Research Act

The latest issue of Water History has a few articles with legal aspects on which I plan to post. The first is "Instituting water research: the Water Resources Research Act (1964) and the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute", by Adam M. Sowards and Brynn M. Lacabanne. The abstract:
In 1964, Congress passed the Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) and created state research institutes to pursue practical research for the nation’s growing water problems. The Idaho Water Resources Research Institute (IWRRI), initiated as part of WRRA, implemented its research program with multidisciplinary specialists across Idaho. Collaborating with public and private partners, IWRRI advanced research that reflected distinct political, economic, and environmental needs at a time when the state required more rigorous water planning. Case studies presented here include research on understanding and valuing wild and scenic rivers, tracing and mitigating water pollution from industrial mining, and improving efficiency and promoting maximization in irrigation among rural landscapes. Scientists developed new methods and advised on ways to improve water quality. Tracing IWRRI’s research demonstrates how concerns about wilderness, pollution, and efficiency developed within a research regime determined to improve water resources management. Each element reflected historical forces and social values, something only occasionally acknowledged by the researchers but nonetheless central to their efforts. In this way, IWRRI shines analytical light on state water use and the policy and scientific methods used to comprehend, mitigate, and manage water resources. The history of institutes like IWRRI provide a neglected, but useful, avenue to explore the powerful ways contemporary legal, political, and economic concerns shaped scientific research agendas, reminding us of the larger social context in which scientific research occurs.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trump, Carl Schmitt, and climate change denial

Over at the Niskanen Center blog, Mark Weiner recently posted the very interesting "Climate Change Denial as the Historical Consciousness of Trumpism: Lessons from Carl Schmitt". Some excerpts:
We need to understand Trumpism as a philosophical movement even better than its own adherents do, and with full interpretive sympathy, and we need to be prepared to confront it along all its philosophical axes.
The most central of these axes is Trumpism’s approach to history, because the identity of a political movement, like that of a nation, becomes fully apparent only once it possesses a self-conscious understanding of the past.
As a framework for interpreting the past, climate change denial grows logically from the core metaphysical commitments of contemporary populist nationalism in its confrontation with trans-Atlantic, cosmopolitan, individualist liberalism.
In this respect one might thus regard it as the distinctive form of anti-liberal historical thinking of our era. 
Two principles of Schmitt’s writing are especially relevant to understanding the place of climate change denial in Trumpism’s historical consciousness, and they’re worth discussing at some length. Each principle links Trumpian domestic and international politics as two sides of the same philosophical coin.
The political is inviolable
First, for Schmitt a community’s ability to draw the friend-enemy distinction can—by definition—brook no conceptual or institutional restraint.
Most notably, the distinction can’t be predicated on other domains of human value, such as morals, aesthetics, or economics. Ideals from these fields may be used to enhance public feelings of opposition. Enemies are regularly portrayed as ugly, for instance—a practice at which Trump personally excels.
But the object of a community’s political dissociation is made on the basis of criteria independent from judgments about good and evil, beauty and ugliness, or profit and loss.
Liberals today regularly violate this principle. They seek to circumscribe national sovereignty within generally-applicable legal norms such as individual human dignity—consider Article I of the German Basic Law—and to restrict it through institutions like the United Nations.
Schmitt views such liberal projects not simply as na├»ve, but also as a recipe for social chaos at home and unrestrained, imperialistic violence abroad. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A colonial history of the River Murray dispute

Adam Webster recently posted his article, "A Colonial History of the River Murray Dispute". The abstract:
This article examines the history of the dispute over the sharing of the waters of the River Murray between the colonies, with particular emphasis on the period from the mid-1880s to the mid-1890s. The article shows that the change in water use by the colonies during this period had a significant impact on the question of how the water should be shared between the colonies. The article examines the early legal arguments regarding the ‘rights’ of the colonies to the waters of the River Murray and argues that these early legal analyses influenced the drafting of the Australian Constitution, which in turn has influenced the way similar disputes between the states are resolved today.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Animal welfare law in Scotland

Daniel James Carr recently posted "The Historical Development of Animal Welfare Law in Nineteenth Century Scotland". The abstract:
This paper examines the development of animal welfare in Scotland. Whilst the law developed in tandem with developments across nineteenth century Britain, the paper draws attention to the distinctive Scottish situation. By examining the development from disparate common law protections to the statutory interventions of the nineteenth century the paper charts that development, and begins to place it within nascent 'humanist' movements emerging around this time. The piece examines how the Scottish doctrinal law took a distinctive direction in decisions, and in particular considers contemporary opinion. The paper is the first to take a look at the particular Scottish development and opens up new avenues of research into the nineteenth century, and also frames developments in the modern law which I will pursue in future research.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

London's smoke regulation

The Court of Aldermen and Common Council of the City of London (1780)
Last week's Reviews in History posted a review by Elly Robson of William Cavert's The Smoke of London: Energy and Environment in the Early Modern City (Cambridge UP, 2016, recently out in paperback). (For an earlier review see here.) From the review:
Cavert is particularly strong on the complex role of political and legal institutions – both local and national – in managing coal supply and regulating smoke. In his account, the politics of coal and smoke was a politics of governance. Chapter five, ‘Nuisance and neighbours’, deals with the legal category of ‘nuisance’ to cast light on how conflict over pollution was defined and mediated. In it, Calvert investigates a smorgasbord of relatively ineffective litigious avenues for pursuing redress against industrial polluters who infringed on royal or individual property and health. Law Reports form the mainstay of the chapter and Cavert’s frustration is evident when he describes searching for nuisance cases in Westminster court archives, including 10,000 pleas in King’s Bench, as akin to ‘looking for needles in large and messy haystacks’. Yet he casts his net wide, examining an impressive array of London institutions, including the Fishmongers Company, the Court of Aldermen, and the Wardmote Courts. He consequently has an acute sense of the regulative capacity of different, interlocking jurisdictions, but does not present them as totalising in influence. Instead his emphasis falls on their limitations. Private contracts by landlords were far more effective than common law courts in excluding noxious trades from certain parts of the city, particularly in creating an elite non-industrial zone in genteel west London. This chapter tells us more about institutions and their limits than it does about the ways in which smoke sparked neighbourly negotiation. Royal and aristocratic attempts to limit air pollution in their vicinity have left a more prominent archival trace. However, further light may be cast on environmental conflict between more lowly urban neighbours through further examination of legal depositions, which tend to be well catalogued and have provided a rich lens for early modern historians examining rural disputes over resources.
A concern with governance recurs in part three, where several chapters examine the role of the state in regulating London’s coal supply and mediating the competing claims of civic governors, coal suppliers, the military, the urban poor, merchants, and industries. Efforts to ensure a constant flow of coal to the capital were more energetically pursued than attempts to alleviate pollution, because the former aligned with the priorities of the fiscal-military state: taxation, naval power, social stability, and economic development. Although there was never a state monopoly over the coal trade, the state gathered information through taxes on coal imports and intervened in markets by granting and revoking charters. Tensions could arise, however, between state revenues and economic growth, as merchants mobilised to lobby against rising coal taxes. Similarly, in times of war, able seamen transporting coal down the coast became a valued resource and were vulnerable to naval impressment, forcing the government to balance external military dangers with the threat that fuel scarcity posed to internal social order. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Postwar America's greatest environmentalist

More on working-class environmentalism and the law (see, most recently, here): Jacobin recently ran a piece by Connor Kilpatrick claiming that "Postwar America’s greatest environmentalist was a labor leader". There's a lot here also about politics, religion, climate skepticism and more. Some excerpts:
Today, the AFL-CIO lobbies Congress to pass the Keystone XL pipeline while noted NASA climate scientist James Hansen, one of the first to link global warming to fossil fuels, is repeatedly arrested for protesting such projects. And while in 2017, the idea that the interests between wonky environmentalists and jobs-focused trade unionists would diverge seems like common sense, it’s only because the bad guys won.
But it wasn’t a preordained victory. For nearly a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, environmentalism seemed to be on the cusp of a popular reckoning against the powers of capital. And it found an ally in the labor movement which, for a few years, looked like it might be able to not only cling to life but find a way back into the heart of American society.
[Tony] Mazzocchi and his union, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International (OCAW), were the primary muscle behind the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), signed into law by Richard Nixon. Looking back on that victory, which mobilized both labor and the burgeoning environmental movement, Mazzocchi said: “We have demonstrated that an unpopular idea can be generated into a powerful political program that’ll reignite the consciousness of the American people.”