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Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises

Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises


State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
Price: $14.95

Release Date: 

October 2020






The U.S. legal system was built to address predictable health and environmental injuries, but it can seize up when health or environmental crises combine legally confounding fact patterns with huge humanitarian and financial stakes. Because these crises present serious societal challenges that affect large slices of America, however, they must be addressed—and resolved—in an open, fair, and equitable fashion.

Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises, released by the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, describes the tools that advocates, judges, legislators, and policymakers have applied to address and resolve—with varying levels of success—seven major health and environmental crises of our time. From Diethylstilbestrol to Dieselgate, the seven crises provide a rich source of insights that should inform and guide how the legal system responds to future health and environmental crises—including crises that already are on our doorstep, such as the opioid and climate crises.


About the Author

The non-partisan State Energy & Environmental Impact Center supports state attorneys general in defending and promoting clean energy, climate, and environmental laws and policies. Learn more at www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.

Book Reviews

Essential reading in understanding the policy implications of health and environmental tragedies. A cogent study of when our Courts work effectively—and when they don’t. What are the competing alternatives? You’ll find the answers here.

—Kenneth R. Feinberg, Administrator of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund & the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Fund

Sweeping in scope yet exquisite in detail, Looking Back to Move Forward chronicles the most serious health and environmental crises of the past century. By tallying what our courts and policymakers got wrong and right, the volume is an essential resource for those confronting today’s challenges—and those who will address calamities to come.

—Nora Freeman, Engstrom Professor of Law, Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar, Stanford Law School

When the health and environmental threats of the 21st century feel unsurmountable, this book reminds us that our judicial system can help meet enormous challenges, as prosecutors and lawyers showed with tobacco. By focusing on past approaches to major settlements, the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center illustrates how the law helps confront pressing issues, like climate change, when other branches are captive to industry influence.

—Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Senator, Rhode Island

Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises offers a timely master class on the strategies and tools used by advocates, judges, legislators, and policymakers to resolve some of the most high-profile—and vexing—health and environmental challenges of our time, from tobacco exposure to VW's diesel deception. Packed with detail, Looking Back distills key guiding principles, replicable models, and pitfalls to avoid. As we continue to confront complex crises, like the existential threat of climate change and the epidemic of opioid addiction—both fueled by corporate deception and denial—we can draw on these crisply rendered lessons learned to protect the health of our communities and environment and hold accountable those who violate the law.

—Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

Health and environmental disasters test our resolve as a society to achieve justice. The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center has put together an extraordinary collection of clear, well-written essays addressing how past health and environmental disasters have been handled, emphasizing the lessons learned from lawyers, courts, and policy makers that will aid in responding to future disasters. This book delivers powerful and insightful information that goes beyond the typical superficial treatment of managing the consequences of a natural disaster.

—Allen Kanner, Kanner & Whitely L.L.C., Lead Counsel for the State of Louisiana in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Litigation