Law 798:  Environmental Policy

In this seminar we will pursue two distinct goals: first, to develop a better appreciation of the problems that beset our planet and the practices in which we each engage on a daily basis that cause those problems; and second, to ask deeper questions about why we persist, as individuals and as a society, to engage in those practices when evidence suggests that their short-term gains will not be worth their long-term costs.   These two goals will cause us to pan between the empirics of environmental degradation, the philosophical presuppositions that support and encourage our unsustainable practices, and the policies that ought to be pursued by business and political leaders and lawmakers. 

This seminar is explicitly designed to complement the study of environmental law.  By understanding the science of environmental degradation and by engaging in debate about the optimal policy of environmental management, students should be well prepared to ask, more specifically, about the role that law can best play in inducing sustainable practices and protecting valuable natural capital.  We will thus examine, for example, the value of biodiversity, the importance of preserving wilderness, the significance of stabilizing the climate, the ethics our present use and abuse of animals, our reliance on industrialized methods of crop production, and our present consumptive practices. 

This seminar will meet twice a week.  Each week we will tackle both distinct planetary perils and readings that engage ethical and policy questions raised by the human practices that have generated those perils.  We will thus straddle both the science of environmental ills and the ethics of environmental management. 

Sequence and Prerequisites: None

Evaluation: During the course of the seminar, students will be required to write four short opinion pieces -“Op Ed’s”, each worth 20% of their final grade.  Students will have broad discretion in choosing the topics for three of these pieces; the last opinion piece will be done in class in response to a set question.  Students will also be asked to do various engaging, hand’s-on in-class activities which will be cumulatively worth 20% of their final grade.  Attendance, preparation, and participation are required.


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