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Vibrant Environment

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
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.

Getting the Lead Out: A New Strategy for Eliminating Toxic Lead in Drinking Water

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Lead exposure from drinking water is a deeply rooted regulatory, economic, and environmental justice problem in the United States. Tragic stories from Washington, D.C. in the early 2000s, Flint, Michigan in 2014, and most recently in Newark, New Jersey, expose on the national stage the most extreme cases of drinking water contamination. But it is also an everyday reality that falls disproportionately on many low-income and minority communities across the United States.

Green Work Makes the Dream Work: Introducing BRIGHT’s Green Jobs Repository

By Sahara Khan, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, December 3, 2018

Solar panels, wildlife observatories, and rain barrels, oh my! How can the Environmental Law Institute’s Blight Revitalization Initiative for Green, Healthy Towns (BRIGHT) Area-Wide Planning Guide help your community implement green infrastructure? The BRIGHT guide compiles research on brownfields revitalization to empower communities and municipalities with some helpful tools to turn a brownfield into an economic opportunity. BRIGHT recognizes the economic and community-building potential that green infrastructure development can have for a community.

“Every Culture Has a Science”: An Introduction to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Indigenous Scientific Representation

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, October 29, 2018

In the Alaskan Arctic, Inupiat hunt bearded seals for food and blubber—a tradition spanning generations, and based on hunters’ extensive knowledge of the weather, ice, seal habitats, and how to prepare and pay respects to the animal after killing it. But over the past few generations, their ability to harvest seals has been significantly affected with the warming oceans, melting ice, and changing patterns of marine animals in the Bering Sea. Last spring, hunters in Unalakleet, Alaska, could not participate in the harvest because there was little ice cover. Since seals use ice pans as a place to rest above water, reduced ice cover impedes hunters’ ability to find and hunt the animals. Inupiat worry about what these environmental changes will mean for future generations.

Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Toxic Waste and Race

By Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Over 30 years ago, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States confirmed that race was the primary factor in determining the location of siting toxic wastes. Published by the United Church of Christ, the report’s release set in motion a movement addressing environmental health and social justice now known as environmental justice (EJ). In the decades to follow, EJ became institutionalized in our government agencies with the formation of the Environmental Equity Working Group at EPA in 1990 and Executive Order No. 12898 signed in 1994. Outside of government, the report catalyzed the formation of grassroots groups to address issues of environment health in their communities. The EJ movement also reorients the mainstream definition of environment. It frames the environment as not simply the woods, mountains, and ocean, but as our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our homes.

Welcome, Mayor—Now Here Comes the Hurricane

By Sam Koenig, Research Associate
Monday, October 8, 2018

What would you do if your job was to manage a small coastal community besieged by job loss, irate voters, hurricanes, oil spills, and hipsters? Here’s a way to find out: boot up your laptop or tablet and check out ELI’s new “serious game,” Digital Cards Against Calamity.

In the wake of Hurricanes Maria, Irma, Harvey, and Florence, which have resulted in an estimated total of over 3,200 deaths and more than $375 billion in damage, finding ways to increase a community’s “resilience IQ” should be a national priority.

Green Business Wave or Greenwashing?

CounterThink: Adams & Berger (2007)
By Azi Akpan, Science and Policy Analyst; Manager, National Wetlands Awards
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Businesses historically have had a complicated relationship with the natural environment. The Industrial Revolution, marked by the boom of economic development and birth of modern business, emerged at the expense of natural resources and public health. Historical and current business activities continue to contribute to some of our most pressing global challenges, including climate change, resource scarcity, and social inequality. Concepts such as corporate social responsibility and environmental social governance attempt to establish a new relationship between business, the environment, and communities. These principles aspire to synergize business prosperity, sustainability, and social equity.

Environmental Justice Panel Spotlights Women Activists and Scholars

Environmental Justice Panel
By Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate
Monday, April 30, 2018

On Monday, April 16, ELI, the Environmental Justice Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice (CRSJ), Georgetown University Law Center, Georgetown Environmental Law Society, and the D.C. Bar Association hosted a seminar entitled: Environmental Justice in the 21st Century Part 2: Threats and Opportunities. The event focused on changes and challenges in the environmental justice movement and featured a panel of environmental justice experts and a keynote speech from Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Cal.). Representative Ruiz, a medical doctor from Coachella Valley, California, delivered a passionate speech describing the struggles facing communities of color in his district who are often disenfranchised from the environmental decisionmaking process. His bill, the Environmental Justice Act of 2017 (H.R. 4114), the companion to Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) bill introduced in the Senate (S. 1996), aims to empower communities to have meaningful input into environmental decisions.