ELI Offers Special Programming in Celebration of Its 50th Year: Technology as an Emerging Driver

September 2019

(Washington, DC):  From the air we breathe to the water we drink to the food we put into our bodies, our environment has seen dramatic improvements thanks in part to the laws and policies put in place over the last five decades. But the next 50 years will be driven by technology as much as by regulation, and our increasingly fast-paced technological world requires a restructuring in environmental protection strategy. Throughout the month of September, ELI will be taking a closer look at “Technology as an Emerging Driver” as we continue to offer special events, programs, and publications in commemoration of our 50th Anniversary.

In A New Environmentalism: The Need for a Total Strategy for Environmental Protection, Scott Fulton, ELI's President, and Dave Rejeski, Director of ELI’s Technology, Innovation, and Environment Program, point out that the number of strategies that can be brought to bear on existing and emerging environmental challenges are far greater than any time in our history. This is especially true when we think about the synergies between drivers—empowered citizens, laws, a host of new options created by engaged businesses, and new technologies ranging from AI to blockchains. These issues will be at the forefront at GreenTech 2019: Innovating Environmental Protection for the Future, to be held in Seattle, Washington, on October 1-3, 2019. This inaugural conference will allow policymakers, lawmakers, technologists, and NGOs to engage with leaders from some of the world’s most innovative companies to explore environmental protection in this era of transformative technological change. Registration for the event is now open. For details, visit https://www.greentechconference.org/.

As ELI readies itself for GreenTech 2019, ELI will host a series of seminars this September that pay special attention to the various opportunities and challenges technology offers. For example, bioplastics—polymers made from biomass sources such as vegetable oils, corn starch, and woodchips—has entered the spotlight in recent years as a means of reducing plastic pollution and its impacts. But some question is financial viability, and others caution that bioplastics may not be environmentally preferable after all.  On September 5, ELI and the Plant Based Products Council will host Bioplastics: A Solution to Pollution? to take a closer look at this emerging and potentially transformative technology.

Gene engineering is another technology subject to much debate. The technology presents vast possibilities for public health and food security transformations, from the capacity to reduce the spread of disease-carrying insects to dramatically increasing crop yields. At the same time, however, many have expressed concern about the environmental, health, and ethical impacts of genetic engineering. On September 11, join ELI for Genetic Engineering: The Good, The Bad, and The Necessary.  

And on September 24, ELI will host Technology and the Seas: Enforcement in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs enable the provision of fundamental ecosystem services, the protection of marine biodiversity and cultural resources, and provide spaces in which to conduct cutting-edge research and implement innovative policies. Yet, the management of MPAs can face challenges including the lack of adequate tools, rules to secure comprehensive monitoring, the vastness of the ocean, and more.

Much of our work in the technology sphere stems from ELI’s Innovation Lab, be it promoting public understanding of coastal resilience with a video game, Cards Against Calamity; helping stakeholders explore future biotechnology products and applications; facilitating the use of citizen generated data via the Citizen Science Association’s Law and Policy Working Group; providing environmental governance support to emerging sectors like the cannabis industry; or featuring stories of Environmental Disruptors in ELI’s People Places Planet Podcast. Visit https://www.eli.org/innovation-lab to learn more about these and other projects from the Innovation Lab.

ELI traces its origins to a national conference on the emerging field of environmental law held at the Airlie House in Virginia in September 1969. Often described as a one-of-a kind environmental law think-and-do tank, ELI continues to effect change through its work as a premier environmental law educator, convener, publisher, and research engine as we enter our 50th year.

Be sure to check out our blogs, podcasts, and other online resources for additional material concerning courts and the rule of law. And visit https://www.eli.org/eli-50th-anniversary throughout the year for details and updates on ELI’s 50th Anniversary programming.