Tuesday, January 30, 2018

LBJ's environmental legislation

A recent issue of Federal History has an article by Nancy Germano, "Negotiating for the Environment: LBJ's Contributions to the Environmental Movement". From the article:
Environmental historian Martin V. Melosi refers to the Johnson administration as "a transitional force in the evolution from old-style conservation to modern environmentalism." This article presents evidence in support of Melosi's statement by showing that the Johnson presidency, typically associated with civil rights, the War on Poverty, and the Vietnam conflict, also created an environmental legacy. In addition to a record number of federal laws directed at protection of natural resources, Johnson's rhetoric and actions set the stage for American environmentalism. He, along with Lady Bird Johnson, initiated new conversations and approaches for natural resource protection and shaped environmental advocacy for the nation. In the process, Johnson generated an enduring conviction that environmentalism and individualism-the individual's claimed freedoms and property rights-could thrive hand-in-hand.
This article explores two legislative campaigns during the Johnson administration-urban beautification and protection of wild and scenic rivers-that exemplified the president's stance on natural resource conservation. These campaigns demonstrated the priorities of environmental "restoration," cleanup, and stewardship later adopted by the environmental movement. By generating public participation in environmental programs and fiercely negotiating the possible outcomes, Johnson's approach and recommended strategies prefigured the work of environmental activists.
Germano notes:
In addition to those discussed in this article, laws relating to the environment signed by Johnson include the Clean Air Act (PL 88-206), Pesticide Control Act (PL 88-305), Wilderness Act (PL 88-577), Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (PL 88-578), Fire Island National Seashore (PL 88-587), Canyonlands National Park Act (PL 88-590), Water Resources Planning Act (PL 89-80), Water Quality Act (PL 89-234), Solid Waste Disposal Act (PL 89-272), Water Pollution Control Act (PL 89-753), Guadalupe Mountains National Park Act (PL 89-667), Endangered Species Act (PL 89-669), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Act (PL 89-761), San Gabriel Wilderness Act (PL 90-318), and Great Swamp Wilderness Area Act (PL 90-532).

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Historical analysis in environmental law VI: What is at stake

In the last couple of posts in this series I suggested several directions of inquiry for uncovering the history of environmental law. In this final post in the series, I would like to tentatively offer some thoughts on why the historical exploration of environmental law matters.

First of all, history can help us better understand current environmental law. For instance, David Driesen has recently advanced a positive theory of environmental law, attempting to explain its salient features, such as reliance on certain types of standards. Notably missing from his account are historical explanations for these aspects of environmental law, explanations which might be provided by works such as those of Morag-Levine.  Or take the argument of 'free market environmentalists' that private law would do a better job of protecting the environment than modern regulation; this type of argument could be checked against the historical experience of legal systems that have relied on private law for this purpose.

AC Pigou
Second, the history of environmental law is a topic that offers an opportunity to bridge the material and the abstract, or to take up environmental historian Linda Nash's challenge 'to show how what is presumed to be social or cultural is thoroughly intertwined with the natural.' Such an endeavour would be beneficial to both environmental history and legal history, as legal doctrines, institutions, and ideologies—social and cultural artifacts—developed with regard to the natural, may circulate beyond the narrow confines of environmental law to other legal contexts. One thinks, for instance, of Pigouvian taxes, cost-benefit analyses, and feasibility standards, all developed 'intertwined with the natural' but spreading their branches far afield.

Environmentalists often portray themselves as acting in the name of an apolitical public interest.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Law in the Anthropocene? Maybe not

Eric Biber recently posted a series at Legal Planet based on his recent Georgetown Law Journal article, "Law in the Anthropocene Epoch" (abstract below). The Anthropocene, for those who have somehow missed this buzzword, is (according to its proponents--it has yet to be officially adopted) a new epoch, in which the signs of human changes to the planet are visible in the geologic record. The article and blog posts contain a useful catalog of ways in which current legal doctrines and institutions do a poor job of dealing with environmental challenges, and essentially argue for the desirability of major changes in liberal conceptions of individual rights and private property. That sounds right, but I'd like to quibble over three historical elements of the argument.

First, Biber's confidence in the direction of future political and legal change ("Humans will inevitably respond to the Anthropocene", "These responses will ineluctably lead to greater government involvement", etc.) seems to me problematic, reflecting an environmental-determinist and functionalist view of legal development that I find unconvincing. Many of the challenges identified by Biber have been with us for some time, and the law has apparently not adapted to them. It is not clear that it must or will do so in the future. I think a more tentative or even a normative tone would have made for a more convincing argument.

Second, Biber's use of "the Anthropocene" is idiosyncratic. Many proponents of the idea of an Anthropocene epoch seem to have settled on a start date in the mid-twentieth century, though others (including the originators of the idea) argue for an 1800 start, and others would push it back even further. In any case, if there is an Anthropocene, we are already in it, the challenges identified by Biber are already upon us (with many of them hundreds of years old), and so if, as he argues, the law will change in response to them, it should have already done so. If the Industrial Revolution took place during the Anthropocene, it is hard to make sense of his argument that "These changes will parallel similar revolutionary legal changes associated with industrialization and the development of a national economy in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Enclosure in Israel and Palestine

In developments close to home, the latest issue of the New York Review of Books has a review by Raja Shehadeh of Gary Fields's Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror (U. California Press, 2017). Some excerpts:
Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, a series of legal developments in the Ottoman Empire—which ruled Palestine until 1917—had enabled the growth of... large land holdings. They included the promulgation of the Ottoman Land Code of 1858, which attempted to eliminate the musha system, whereby land was held in common, and required that the cultivator-turned-owner register his land with Treasury officials.
The legal processes the Ottomans had begun were continued in the years after the end of their rule—first by the British military occupation of Palestine from 1917 to 1922, and then when the League of Nations granted the British a mandate over Palestine from 1922 to 1948. During both periods, the British continued to revise the land laws with a view to making the land more marketable and facilitating its sale to the Zionists. Among the British figures whose ideas provided the foundation for British land policy in Palestine was Sir Ernest Dowson, who believed that what the Palestinian fellah, or peasant, needed was “enclosure and partition of the common fields.”
In his book..., Gary Fields defines enclosure as “a practice resulting in the transfer of land from one group of people to another and the establishment of exclusionary spaces on territorial landscapes.” Dowson was intent on creating blocks of property that could be surveyed and registered with the Mandate Land Authority. Mandate authorities also sought to repeal the musha system. British officials were convinced that the enclosure of common land, which had already been implemented in England, had brought about “improvement” and “progress,” and they sought to replicate it in Palestine.
This British policy represented a victory for the Zionist movement. It made it possible for more Palestinian land to be sold to Zionist Jews. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Historical Analysis in Environmental Law V: What is to be done? Police, public health, statutory nuisances, planning and zoning, labor law, and literature

In the last post in this series I suggested looking at the histories of commons regulation, forest law, and 'police' to better understand the historical roots of modern environmental law. Before moving on to note several other relevant areas of historical law, I would like to note that while critics (most recently Markus Dubber) have impugned police for its broad discretion and patriarchal foundations, these very elements were powerful enablers of environmental regulation in the public interest. Moreover, the opposing tradition that Dubber identifies—the Enlightenment ideal of the 'rule of law'—has often used the liberal ideal of private property to frustrate public-minded environmental regulation. In any case, police regulations, with their wide remit and geographic dispersion, are natural places to look for sources of modern environmental law. Noga Morag-Levine has indeed made the connection between early modern 'science of police' and later regulation of air pollution, but it is likely that 'police' was—for better or worse—a fertile source of much more of environmental regulation than we yet realize.

An important sub-set of police regulation was the public health law that grew up in the Victorian age as a response to the urbanization and industrialization of the period, giving expression to the sanitary movement's concern with the effects of environmental degradation on human health and welfare, particularly of the working classes. Public health statutes, bylaws, regulations, and licenses regulated issues such as smoke pollution, industrial odors, and sewage disposal. This highly developed area of law could be investigated for its influences on later environmental law, including its emphasis on technical solutions to pollution problems and the division of labour between central and local regulation that continue to characterize the field. Public health law is also likely responsible for the creation of a bureaucracy of professionals with expertise in the health and engineering aspects of pollution that would form the core professional staff of modern environmental regulators.

Associated with public health law in the Anglo-American world was the law of statutory nuisances. Statutory nuisances allowed for private and public administrative and criminal enforcement of prohibitions on various forms of pollution and encroachment on the public domain, and thus are a likely source of much modern environmental law. Moreover, this area of law may be a source of the prevalent confusion over the role of nuisance law in the pre-1970 area. It may be true that 'nuisance law' was the dominant vehicle for environmental regulation in this period; yet the category of 'nuisance' included not only a common law variant (private and public, the latter of which could be criminally prosecuted), but also statutory nuisance, with its explicit prohibitions on specific types of environmental harms and risks, such as discharges of pollution into water sources and emissions of 'noxious vapours'. If the law of nuisance one imagines is the private, common law of nuisance usually thought of, modern environmental legislation might indeed seem to represent a major revolution. If, on the other hand, statutory nuisance is given its due, the environmental legislation of the 1970s may look more like an elaboration of existing law.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Knights of St. John and endangered species protection

"Fungus coccineus Melitensis Typhoides",
from Paolo Boccone, Icones & Descriptiones rariarum plantarum Siciliae, Melitae, Galliae, & Italiae (1674)
A recent trip to Malta took me to the Dwejra on the beautiful island of Gozo, off the coast of which lies the small islet of Fungus Rock. The island is named after the rare "Malta Fungus" (actually a flowering plant) that grows on the top of this rock and was once thought to possess medicinal properties. The Knights Hospitallers exhibit at the former Sacra Infermeria in Valletta explains that the Knights (also known as the Knights of St. John), who ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798, so prized the plant that they often gave gifts of it to kings, noblemen, and distinguished visitors.
Collection was only allowed 15 days after the feast of St. John in May, this allowed the plant to flower and propagate. The increasing demand on this restricted plant led to concern on its possible extinction. Grand Master Pinto decreed the Rock out of bounds in 1746; trespassers risked a three-year spell as oarsmen on the Knights' galleys. He posted a permanent guard there and even built a precarious cable-car basket from the rock to the mainland and also ordered the sides smoothed to remove handholds. Nowadays, Fungus Rock is a nature reserve and the rare plant is still protected by Maltese law.
Fungus Rock at Dwejra, Gozo (G. Mannaerts)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Historical analysis in environmental law IV: What is to be done? - The commons, forest law, and police

At the end of the previous post in this series I argued that the history of environmental law remains in need of extensive work both in uncovering the legal roots of contemporary environmental law and in making the lateral connections between historical environmental law and other historical topics.

I would like to suggest that of these two dimensions—we might think of them as longitudinal and lateral—the first order of business should be longitudinal, deepening the temporal dimension of environmental law. We will be hard pressed to assess the significance of historical environmental law or its interactions with other areas of law and life without knowing what it was or what people thought about it. However, given that 'environmental law' is a recently coined term, where are we to look for historical environmental law? I will offer several directions of inquiry, some of them already explored by environmental and other historians, though often without the sensitivity to legal dimensions that might be expected were more legal historians to take up the task. (Not all work on historic environmental regulation is necessarily relevant to understanding the sources of current environmental law. For instance, scholars have investigated environmental regulation in Roman law and in Jewish law, but it would be difficult to claim that these ancient legal systems were the source of modern environmental law.)

One obvious place to look is to the history of that most well-worn of metaphors for environmental problems—the commons. As is well known by now, the actual medieval and early modern European commons caricatured in Garrett Hardin's parable of the tragedy of the commons were not the rule-free disaster zones he depicted, but rather highly regulated sites of interaction between humans and nature. Environmental historians have studied the laws governing the woodland and pasture commons, though not necessarily in the framework of 'environmental law' or with an eye to the type of questions a lawyer might ask of the sources. In particular, historians of environmental law might want to investigate broad issues such as the conceptions of law, justice, right, and property reflected in the commons regulations, as well as narrower ones such as the types of rules, standards, adjudicatory procedures, and remedies applied to various forms of environmental conflicts and their possible influence on later legal rules.

For instance, the principle of 'necessary use'—'that the actions of others should not deprive one of the basic materials needed to sustain one’s enterprise'—was apparently ubiquitous in early modern German commons by-laws, as it was in the rules governing water allocation in the nineteenth century western United States. It is also arguably the motivating principle behind the feasibility standard so pervasive in modern environmental regulation, which requires a polluter to use the best available technology only to the extent it is economically feasible. While a theorist might use this commonality to support a normative or positive argument about property in natural resources or pollution regulation, a historian might profitably search for the common roots of these norms or the paths through which they travelled in time and space, and the ways people justified or criticized them over time.

Moreover, legal fights against enclosure of the commons were clearly a precursor of more recent legal protections for open spaces, an alternative source to the commonly accepted stories about the Romantic and preservationist roots of this area of law, and one with a more socially-oriented tint. Investigation of the commons preservation movement and anti-enclosure movements in general are likely to yield insights into the political valence of some of the historical building blocks of environmental preservation law.

A related field demanding study is forest law. It is practically a commonplace among environmental historians that the concept of sustainability, so central to contemporary environmental law, originated in early modern forest management, and historians have shown that intensive forest regulation in Europe goes back to the medieval period. Environmental historian Richard Grove has made the connection between colonial forest management and concerns over climate change, and my own work has connected this concern to colonial forest regulation. E.P. Thompson's Whigs and Hunters highlighted the way early modern English forest law was both a tool of enclosure on behalf of landed elites and a site of resistance for commoners, and similar points have been made about English law in the medieval periodOther works have examined the historic interplay of private, common, and state property in forests and varying conceptions of conservation that were expressed in their regulation. These are all themes that continue to resonate in modern environmental debates. Further research might shed light on how forest law variously worked to preserve forests or facilitate their destruction, as well as on how this regulatory field influenced other areas of environmental law, including modern debates over the commons and enclosure.

Both these bodies of law are connected to a third, broad one (though some would deny it the distinction of being considered 'law'): so-called 'police' regulation. This flexible and capacious form of regulation, justified in terms of its promotion of good government and the common welfare, has had many points of contact with environmental issues since early modern times, through its protections for public health and safety and rules for management of natural resources.

In the next post, I'll give my take on Markus Dubber's attack on police regulation, and discuss further places to look for the history of environmental law.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Water law in Star Chamber

‘A plotte of the landes about Ashebourne’, Derbyshire. 1556–1557
(Folger Shakespeare Library)
One difficulty of English water-law history is the dearth of reported water cases predating the nineteenth century. Fortunately young historians are doing good work in digging up archival documentation of water litigation. We heard a few years ago from Leona Skelton about her interesting work on the Tyne River Court, and now I'd like to note Lehua Yim's work on a sixteenth century water law dispute litigated in the Court of Star Chamber: "A Watercourse ‘in Variance’: Re-situating a Sixteenth-Century Legal Map from Ashbourne, Derbyshire", published last year in Imago Mundi. The abstract:
Law-related English local maps, especially those dating from the early- to mid-sixteenth century, remain in need of both extensive and close study. In this article, a hand-drawn sketch map in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, is re-contextualized in relation to documents connected with lawsuits in The National Archives in England. These lawsuit documents, concerning disputes brought before the court of the Star Chamber in the mid-sixteenth century, allow us to correct the accepted date of the map’s creation, suggest its likely creator and identify its probable use at a time of expanding cartographic consciousness among the educated classes. The importance of the manuscript map to one English family’s subsequent assertions of proprietary rights in a small stream running from Bradbourne to Ashbourne, Derbyshire, explains its provenance outside official court records.
Star Chamber has gotten a bad name in the last few hundred years, especially in the US, but it was an important court in the early modern period, capable--as Yim's article shows--of providing justice where the common law courts could not.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Historical analysis in environmental law III: Winds of change

In the previous post in this series I discussed the seeming lack of interest of legal historians in environmental angles. Nonetheless, recent years have seen deepening interest in the history of environmental law, with a few scholars highlighting the connections between the supposedly foundational environmental legislation of the 1970s and earlier law. One prominent work in this genre of pushing back environmental law's start date is Karl Boyd Brooks's Before Earth Day. Brooks's book is notable not only for identifying the statutory precursors of modern environmental regulation, but for its attempt to trace the manifold legal, personal, and institutional connections between legislation and litigation, and between pollution control law and the law of nature protection, two areas of modern environmental law that might be assumed to have distinct, even antagonistic, origins.

Another front opened recently regards the relationship between modern environmental law as it coalesced in the 1970s and the New Deal administrative state. On the one hand, Arthur McEvoy has argued that environmental law was a project of the New Deal regime, and that after the early 1970s it declined along with the wider regime. On the other, two recent articles have argued that the environmental law of the 1970s marked a break with New Deal liberalism. Paul Sabin explains the era's public interest law organizations as growing out of environmentalists' increasing disillusionment with the state as an engine of public-minded environmental protection, spurring a turn to an oppositional and litigious stance. Jedidiah Purdy, meanwhile, sees the salient federal legislation of the 1970s and the organizations that grew up around it as departing from an earlier tradition that viewed environmental issues in a wider context of social and economic justice. Mainstream environmental lawyers, he argues, were lulled by the shrinking economic inequality of the postwar period into focusing on elite and professional advocacy and environmental issues narrowly defined, forsaking issues, such as the disproportionate impacts of environmental harms (and environmental regulation) on minorities and workers, that would later come to be labelled 'environmental justice'.

Yet while these works do the valuable service of suggesting connections to wider themes of legal history such as the rise of—and reaction to—the administrative state, they push back the start of environmental law by only a few decades. They also make no connections to environmental regulation before the twentieth century, outside the US, or indeed outside the arena of federal regulation.

It bears noting that the relative dearth of historical work on environmental law, as well as the relatively narrow jurisdictional and chronological frames of what work there is, are far more marked in the American context than in the European. For instance, scholars have produced a significant body of work on French regulation of early industrial pollution, and quite a few British legal historians have given significant attention to environmental issues. Noga Morag-Levine's work has bridged some of these bodies of scholarship, compellingly arguing that English and Continental approaches to pollution control in the nineteenth century continue to inform current American debates over issues such as the appropriateness of the precautionary principle or feasibility standards. The blindness as to the history of environmental law may be a particularly American disease. (To the extent it is, this exceptionalism is itself a topic worthy of research).

The work that perhaps treats American environmental law in the most comprehensive manner is Betsy Mendelsohn's chapter on law and the environment in The Cambridge History of Law in America, which notes in its opening section:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Grotius and Kant on original community of goods and property

The latest issue of Grotiana (noted by Legal History Blog) has an article by Sylvie Loriaux, "Grotius and Kant on Original Community of Goods and Property". The abstract:
Immanuel Kant
This paper is interested in the critical potential of the idea of original common possession of the Earth. On the basis of a comparative analysis of Hugo Grotius and Immanuel Kant, it shows how different the meaning of this idea can be within a theory of property or territory. The first part is devoted to Grotius’s account of why and how the institution of property was progressively introduced. It highlights the importance this account attaches to the intention of the first distributors for a good understanding of property laws, and in particular, for an understanding of their non-application in situations of extreme necessity. The second part takes the opposite path and shows that although Kant rejects the very existence of a right of necessity, the idea that one might be liberated from a law is not completely absent from, and even plays a crucial role in, his account of property. Clarification of this role ultimately leads us back to the idea of original possession in common of the Earth.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Historical analysis in environmental law II: "The one came not near the other all the night"

Edvard Munch, Separation (1896)
(Continuing the series on historical analysis in environmental law. Links to the full series and the article are here.)

In May 2010 Environmental History, the leading journal in its field, published an article by Aaron Sachs on antebellum environmental thought as expressed in contemporary American cemeteries. A few months later legal historian Alfred Brophy published a blog post on American antebellum constitutionalism as expressed in speeches made in cemeteries. Though both pieces focused on the same cemeteries, with rich discussions of the political, social, and cultural contexts in which they operated, neither work made any reference to the other, nor, indeed, to the literature or historical sub-discipline in which the other was located. Three years later, both pieces were released in expanded form, again with no interaction between them or their scholarly worlds.

This was not an isolated (non-)incident. Though the fields of environmental history and legal history seemingly share a wealth of common interests—the histories of capitalism, slavery, and the administrative state are a few of the topics receiving intense attention in both fields in recent years—the two fields move through parallel intellectual universes with nary a glance at one another.

If there is a certain symmetry in the blissful ignorance in which each field operates with regard to the scholarship of its sister field, the same cannot be said of the relative interest each takes in the subject matter of the other. In the last decade (2007-2016) Law and History Review, the leading English-language legal history journal, published only three articles that might be described as engaging with environmental issues; and only one of these—its author an environmental historian, not a legal one—was directly on an environmental topic. Meanwhile the situation in Environmental History, the leading journal in its field, in the same period was radically different; counting conservatively, over twenty-five articles in this journal engaged significantly with legal issues, on a wide variety of topics, including a collection of essays dedicated to a single environmental statute. A similar picture emerges from an examination of leading European journals in the two fields: On the one hand, Journal of Legal History with two articles dealing with issues of public property that might be tagged as environmental and Rechtsgechichte with three on environmental topics; on the other, Environment and History with close to thirty articles with significant treatment of legal issues.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Water services - the Scandinavian model

I recently came across Tapio Katko's Finnish Water Services: Experiences in Global Perspectives (Finnish Assn. of Water Utilities, 2016). It's been reviewed in several journals; here are some excerpts from Glen O'Hara's review in Scandanavian Economic History Review (references to page numbers omitted):
Particularly impressive sections include those on the post-Second World War growth of transnational water governance systems through the auspices of the United Nations, including the International Hydrological Decade of 1965–1974, the subsequent International Hydrological Programme and the regional Baltic agreements that followed the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and then, in a further burst of maritime co-operation, after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s.
Perhaps because of Finland’s small population, and her traditional Nordic role within the international aid and development network, the international situation plays a key role in this book. The spread of integrated Water Management Systems via observation of other countries’ examples, and the role of international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development in defining good governance, are usually to the fore – or at least mentioned – in a compelling narrative of how policy actually works in practice....
Finland, of course, is a country where water systems have for the main part remained in the public, and usually in the municipal, sector: though as Katko acutely points out, that still means that Finland’s water concerns spend a great deal of money in the private sector through the services, equipment and goods that they necessarily consume. As in other countries, charges have mainly paid for Finnish water supply, with direct government support remaining rather low, and in recent years declining further. Capital investment, including in Finland’s far north, was the main intervention mounted by the government: all interesting sidelights on a Nordic economic and social system that depended much more on concert and co-ordination than on massive continued budgetary support, whatever the ubiquity of these states’ image as a type of social democratic utopia outside their borders.