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Vibrant Environment

Environmentalism in the Next Machine Age

Cybernetics
By Dave Rejeski, Visiting Scholar
Monday, February 6, 2017

Can our machines become self-motivated environmental learners?

The environmental movement has always been challenged by machines—the internal combustion engine, steam-powered turbines, production devices of every type and size—mechanisms consuming resources and generating waste during the long chain of events required to produce products (which often ended up themselves as waste). Old machines had rudimentary feedback systems like governors, gyroscopes, and other servomechanisms. These systems rarely provided any control of environmental parameters, but they did have an important characteristic: they operated independent of human operators—a precursor of things to come.

In Case You Missed This . . . The Future of Biotechnology

Plants on agar, Sabisteb
By Dave Rejeski, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, January 11, 2017

For the past seven months, an effort has been underway to change the way we regulate biotechnology—an effort that involves the White House (driven by the Office of Science & Technology Policy and including CEQ, OMB, and the U.S. Trade Representative); three of the most important regulatory bodies in our government: EPA, FDA, and USDA; and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). No regulatory modernization initiative in recent history has come close to this effort in terms of the level of government engagement and potential scope of impact.

After Youth Activists’ Surprising Win in Climate Change Litigation, What’s Next?

Discovering the Trees, Alessandro Pucci
By Benjamin Solomon-Schwartz, Public Interest Law Fellow
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On November 10, 2016—just two days after Election Day—there was another surprising turn of events: a federal district court judge in Oregon handed a long-shot victory to a group of young activists suing the federal government over its history of action and inaction regarding fossil fuels and climate change. Denying the defendants’ motions to dismiss in a thorough and groundbreaking opinion, Judge Ann Aiken found there was a sufficient legal basis for the plaintiffs to pursue their constitutional and common-law claims for the case to proceed to the next litigation stage. Now, in the waning days of the Obama Administration, the case is entering uncharted territory. On top of the unprecedented nature of the case itself, the uncertainty regarding the presidential transition extends to the course this case may take and to its importance going forward.

FOOD WASTE: From The Ground Up: How Cities and States Can Be Leaders in Food Waste Reduction

Food scraps, Tim Jewett
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency announced an ambitious goal of reducing food waste in the United States by 50% by 2030. While the change in presidential administrations presents new obstacles for many federal environmental initiatives, reducing food waste continues to offer fertile ground for cooperation.

Trump’s Proposed Environmental Agenda May Be Easier Said (or Tweeted) Than Done

US White House Logo
By Loyti Cheng, Co-head of the Environmental Practice Group and Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and David A. Zilberberg, Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Monday, December 12, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump's environmental agenda to date has generally been focused on undoing certain specific Obama administration regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) or the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, and relaxing restrictions on domestic fossil fuel exploration and production.

Saving the African Pangolin: The Case of Zimbabwe

White-bellied pangolin, National Botanic Garden of Belgium
By Nyasha Frank Mpahlo, Visiting Fellow
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Human threats to pangolins in Zimbabwe have been kept in check for hundreds of years by traditional practices, but the recent globalization of illicit trade in these scaly, anteater-like mammals has threatened to exterminate them. Held in high regard by traditional chiefs, village headmen, and the tribal communities in general, the pangolin has historically benefitted from human protection in Africa. Zimbabwean folklore advised that the hunting of the pangolin (haka) be strictly controlled, and the deliberate taming of the pangolin was a serious offense.

Environmental Law Institute's Take on the 2016 Presidential Election: Rising Above the Rhetoric

election 2016
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Here at the Environmental Law Institute, we have started getting questions about the meaning of the election for environmental protection, and, in particular, for environmental law. As a 50 year-old non-partisan think-and-do tank focused on building good governance and rule of law in the environmental arena, we think it is important to look past campaign rhetoric in responding to this question. The election of President-Elect Trump was not in our view a referendum on the environment.

Lago Agrio: The Drama Continues

Guillermo Granja/Reuters
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Former Research Associate
Thursday, August 25, 2016

I was in the 10th grade when I first heard about the ecological and human health disaster caused by petroleum extraction in Ecuador. A film festival in my hometown showed Crude, a documentary that details the impact of abandoned oil fields near Lago Agrio and the accompanying legal battle. Local populations whose livelihoods and health were allegedly harmed by careless corporate and government actions had been fighting to hold Texaco accountable for cleanup and compensation since 1993. The film, however, focused on several key characters that became involved in the case many years later. There were lawyers (Steven Donzigner and Pablo Fajardo), a corporation (Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001), celebrities (including Sting), and a young and charismatic Presidente (Rafael Correa of Ecuador).

Brexit for Breakfast: Digesting What Brexit Means for Sustainability

Brexit
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

As the head of a U.K.-based multinational’s Safety, Health, Environmental, and Sustainability function (and a former temporary resident of England), my fascination with the Brexit outcome has been marginally greater than, oh I don’t know . . . that of a Manhattan-based owner of a Scotland golf course. In fact, on the “morning after,” I was in a quaint Cambridge, U.K., hotel room preparing my remarks for a panel discussion later that day on the prospects for governments, financial institutions, and industry to collectively "rewire" our economy and promote sustainable growth.

Communication and Inclusion at the World Environmental Law Congress

Talia Fox
By Talia Fox, Former Research Associate
Thursday, June 16, 2016

From April 27-29, 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the World Environmental Law Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with colleagues from the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) and ELI, including ELI’s president, Scott Fulton. Never having participated in an international gathering of this sort, I was struck by the scale of the event, which brought together over 400 environmental practitioners from 50 countries. Moreover, I was impressed by the various means of communication used at the Congress to make our conversations more accessible. I left the event convinced that the way we communicate—whether formal or familiar, institutionalized or improvised—must reflect the diversity and scope of individuals engaged in environmental problems and their solutions.

All blog posts are the opinion of its author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of ELI the organization or its members.