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?