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Vibrant Environment

From Linear to Circular: Tackling Sustainability Challenges Through Full Life-Cycle Thinking

By Isabelle Smith, Law Clerk
Monday, April 15, 2019

March 16, 2019; a young whale is found washed up on a beach in the Philippines. Autopsy reveals the whale died from “gastric shock” after ingesting 40kg of plastic rubbish including plastic bags and other disposable plastic products. Three weeks later, a pregnant sperm whale is found dead on a beach in Sardinia, Italy, more than two-thirds of her stomach filled with plastic waste.

These whales are the latest casualties of a growing worldwide plastic pollution problem.

Environmental Justice and the Fight to Be Heard

By Kieren Rudge, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Many nationally recognized environmental groups have adopted principles of equity and diversity into their missions over the past two decades, but the environmental justice movement and the marginalized groups that have historically driven the movement are often left out of the “mainstream” environmental discussion. Groups that lack political power such as people of color, people with disabilities, people of low income, the LGBTQ community, and women are often ignored by those with more social influence. Progress has certainly been made in recent years, but more opportunities exist to connect national-scale nonprofits to the groups who face the disproportionate effects of environmental degradation. This issue is highly important because the effects of environmental detriment disproportionally impact these minority groups, and is still a reality that many of these communities face every day. As such, it is essential to recognize that marginalized communities have had a significant impact on environmental policy, and it is imperative to continue to fight for more equitable conditions.

“L’Affaire du Siècle”: Over 2 Million Supporters of Groundbreaking Climate Lawsuit

By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Just weeks after the widespread Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protests swept across France for the better part of December, a petition commonly known as the L’Affaire du Siècle—the Case of the Century—has garnered over 2 million supporters.

Brought by four nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—Greenpeace, Notre Affaire à Tous, OXFAM, and the Fondation Pour la Nature et l’Hommethe December 18 petition contains over 40 pages alleging the French government’s inaction on climate change, claiming that the government has “defaulted its environmental obligations” by failing to take crucial steps to halt rising global temperatures.

CERCLA and the DOD Dilemma: Challenges and Opportunities

By Matthew Beyer, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, February 11, 2019

In the late 1970s, revelations about the hazardous waste contaminating sites like Love Canal and Valley of the Drums captured the American public’s attention. In response to concerns about the risk these hazardous dumps posed to both public and environmental health, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980. Commonly referred to as Superfund, CERCLA gives EPA the authority and resources to clean up and remediate sites contaminated by hazardous substances and pollutants.

INECE Launches Compliance Conversations

By Avital Li, Research Associate, Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, and Jessica Foster, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The global community of agencies and NGOs working in the field of environmental compliance and enforcement has grown substantially in recent years, yet many practitioners remain isolated from others working in the field.

As our understanding of the underlying drivers of environmental compliance and non-compliance deepens, a need arises for creative and unconventional collaboration tools. The recently released UN First Global Report on the Environmental Rule of Law examining the current status of environmental laws highlights... 

2018 Year in Review

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, December 26, 2018

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, the editors of Vibrant Environment thought it might be nice to take a look back at some of the work ELI did in 2018.

While environmental quality over the past 50 years has no doubt improved, the pace of change is leaving in the dust the linear environmental strategies of the past. We’re living in a fascinating moment in time when divergent forces—private environmental governance, law, technologies, and communities—are coming together, allowing us to harness their combined power in a new environmental paradigm. In A New Environmentalism: The Need for a Total Strategy for Environmental Protection, ELI offers a new way to think about the environmental strategies of tomorrow. The article was published in the September issue of ELR’s News & Analysis and was featured at the 2018 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum. We look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.

This Is America’s Food Policy—This Is the 2018 Farm Bill

By Caitlin F. McCarthy, Director of the Associates Program
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“Our nation's food security depends on strong agricultural policy that provides stability for America's farmers and ranchers; protects our land and natural resources; develops new trade opportunities while leveling the playing field for our producers; strengthens rural communities; and helps Americans of all stripes access the nutritious foods they need to keep their families healthy. This is America's food policy. This is the Farm Bill.” (The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture)

This Is How the Light Gets In: The Sunrise Movement and Climate Protests of the Present

By Avital Li, Research Associate
Monday, December 17, 2018

Close to 150 activists were arrested during peaceful protests organized by the youth-led organization Sunrise Movement on Monday, December 10. During and after the direct action, in which thousands of activists visited democratic offices demanding support for incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) proposal for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, 10 additional democratic representatives pledged their support for the proposal. The resolution would create a committee that would have the specific mandate to draft a Green New Deal—the goals of which include 100% renewable energy, upgrading infrastructure, and green technology deploymentthat would be ready by 2020. For “green” democrats, this is a difficult proposal to deny, especially given the depth of research on scaling green strategies, as exemplified by ELI Press’ latest release, Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States: Summary and Key Recommendations.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the Law: The Canadian Case (Part II)

By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney; Director of Tribal Programs; Deputy Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Continuing from ELI’s December 10 post  on the legal authorization and applications of TEK in the United States, today, we explore incorporation of TEK into Canadian law.

Around the world, decisions impacting indigenous peoples’ traditional territories historically have been made without the participation, input, and consent of the indigenous communities themselves. Natural resource management relied solely on Western science, excluding rich knowledge gained over centuries of direct experience and practice.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the United States: Contributions to Climate Adaptation and Natural Resource Management (Part I)

By Greta Swanson, Visiting Attorney
Monday, December 10, 2018

Well before the world’s atmospheric level of carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm, residents and scientists in the Arctic were documenting dramatic changes taking place in the Arctic environment, which is warming at twice the rate as lower latitudes. The Arctic has seen loss and deterioration of summer and fall sea ice, melting of permafrost, migration of shrubby plants into the region, fires, and changes in the phenology of birds, animals, insects, and plants such that their seasonal cycles have become out of sync.