People Places Planet

Welcome to People Places Planet, ELI's leading environmental podcast. We talk to leading experts across sectors who share their solutions to the world's most pressing environmental problems. Tune in for the latest environmental law, policy, and governance developments.

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From producing food deserts and food swamps to negatively impacting biodiversity and ecosystem health, land use laws have shaped America’s food system for decades. Unfortunately, the shape the food system has taken perpetuates serious inequities. In this episode, Jonathan Rosenbloom, law professor and author of Remarkable Cities and the Security and Sovereignty of Food and Nutrition, explains how changes to local development codes and zoning laws can promote food and nutrition security and sovereignty across the country. In conversation with host Sarah Backer, Rosenbloom shares recommendations and paths forward for creating a more equitable and sustainable food system.

Good environmental governance has long relied on sound, science-based agency decisionmaking. That fundamental premise may be eroding as a landscape that was stable for decades continues to shift—with more perhaps yet to come. Host Sarah Backer and Jarryd Page, co-author of a new ELI research report, discuss the findings of the report which includes landmark SCOTUS cases and what the future of environmental protection might look like in the wake of Chevron's demise.

What role can communities play in wetlands restoration? Jess Hua, Associate Professor and Principal Investigator of the Hua Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is leading research that looks into ecological interactions of wetlands and how citizen science shapes community perceptions of these natural environments. In this episode, the 2022 National Wetlands Awardee discusses how diverse communication strategies can lead to a greater understanding of wetlands restoration and why it is important to center community perspectives in wetlands education.

In honor of American Wetlands Month, ELI is celebrating the National Wetlands Awards (NWA). Since 1989, the NWAs have been presented annually to individuals who have excelled in wetlands protection, restoration, and education. On this special miniseries of People Places Planet, Research Associate Isabella Blanco sit downs with past NWA winners to hear their stories. 

While often overlooked, wetlands in New Mexico are integral to ecological balance, water filtration, and the local flora and fauna. Maryann McGraw, Wetlands Program Coordinator for the New Mexico Environmental Department, has played a pivotal role in developing wetlands monitoring, mapping, assessment, and restoration strategies for the state. In this episode, the 2018 State, Tribal, and Local Program Development Winner discusses the importance of local partnerships in wetlands restoration and the new state programming strategies being considered in the aftermath of Sackett v. EPA.

Wetlands don't distinguish between public and private land. What does that mean for restoration practitioners? Tom Ries, founder of Ecosphere Restoration Institute, is an expert at leveraging public-private partnerships to maximize restoration efforts. In this episode, the 2013 National Wetlands Awardee discusses how living shorelines build resilience to climate change and his work to restore and protect wetlands in Florida.

In honor of American Wetlands Month, ELI is celebrating the National Wetlands Awards (NWA). Since 1989, the NWAs have been presented annually to individuals who have excelled in wetlands protection, restoration, and education. On this special miniseries of People Places Planet, Research Associate Isabella Blanco sit downs with past NWA winners to hear their stories. 

With ecosystems ranging from lush wetlands to rolling forests, North Carolina hosts an incredible array of habitats. Incredibly, biologically diverse wetlands make up 12% of its land. But as one of the fastest-growing states, these vital habitats face increasing threats—including draining and infilling for development. Host Sarah Backer sits down with two Wilmington locals: Sam Shores, a World Wildlife Fund Panda Ambassador and conservation activist, and Roger Shew, Senior Lecturer at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Together, they discuss innovative climate-resilient development strategies, the pivotal role of conservation education, and the dynamic advocacy efforts shaping North Carolina's environmental future.

Relevant resources

Analyzing the Consequences of Sackett v. EPA and Looking Ahead to the Future (ELI Webinar) 
Swamps, Science, and Sackett: ELI's Approach to Wetland Preservation (ELI Podcast) 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC” or the “Agency”) licenses and regulates the civilian and commercial use of nuclear power and radioactive materials, including traditional and advanced reactors. Advanced reactor technologies are poised to provide a lower-cost option for carbon-free electricity and can power a broad range of applications including existing power grids, small energy grids (remote areas without connectivity to transmission infrastructure), small electrical markets, and industrial facilities. In this episode, Robert Taylor, the Deputy Office Director for New Reactors in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at the NRC, takes listeners behind the scenes and discusses the Agency’s strides in the licensing of advanced reactors. Mr. Taylor demystifies the world of advanced reactors by discussing key differences between traditional and advanced reactors, the NRC’s existing and anticipated (Part 53) licensing framework for advanced reactor technologies, the status of the NRC’s licensing of applications for advanced reactor designs, and best practices for engaging with the Agency. 

Each April, we celebrate the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. This movement resulted in the creation of many of the United States' foundational environmental laws. And, amidst this burgeoning movement, the Environmental Law Institute was established in December 1969. ELI has since played a pivotal role in shaping the fields of environmental law, policy, and governance, delivering insightful, independent, and research-based analysis to policymakers and the public. In honor of Earth Month, ELI President Jordan Diamond joins the podcast to offer her insights into the impact (past, present, and future) of ELI.

Mud Lake, written and illustrated by 2020 National Wetlands Award winner Sam Lovall, is a collection of short adventure stories set in the 1960s and 70s about children freely exploring the natural world in Haslett, Michigan. The book is an engaging testament to the beauty and importance of nature, making it a perfect read in time for Earth Day.  Weaving storytelling and technical research about ecosystems and climate change, Mud Lake manages to be both fun and educational for all ages. In this week’s episode, host Sarah Backer is joined by author Sam Lovall to discuss what (and who) inspired him to write Mud Lake

When airports, buildings, highways, dams, power plants, and other federal activities are proposed, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements are invoked. Passed by Congress in 1969 and signed into law on January 1, 1970, NEPA fundamentally altered how lawmakers and regulators approach human impacts on the natural world. Despite significant success in involving the public in decision-making, NEPA regulations have been criticized for delaying projects and raising costs. In this episode, ELI Senior Attorney Amy Reed breaks down how NEPA works and explains the proposed changes to NEPA regulations.

Relevant Resources: 
Vibrant Environment, Proposed NEPA Rule Goes All-In on Environmental Justice
ELR, Amending the NEPA Regulations