On Monday night I flew to Santiago, Chile to speak at the University of Chile’s IV Jornadas de Dercho Ambiental. When I arrived in Santiago on Tuesday morning, I discovered that the airline had sent my bag to Buenos Aires by mistake. It was not until late Tuesday night that my bag arrived at my hotel, relieving my fears that I would have to deliver my presentation wearing the only clothes I had with me for nearly two days.
I gave the second presentation at the opening session following a talk by Ana Lya Uriarte, the head of Chile’s EPA (the Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente or CONAMA). Señora Uriarte discussed the government of Chile’s ambitious plans to completely reorganize CONAMA into a cabinet-level Ministry of the Environment with an independent Superintedencia to enforce Chile’s environmental laws. I spoke about “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law” and I showed photos of environmental conditions in China, as well as video clips from the environmental law movies my Chinese students made. My slides had been translated into Spanish, as was my paper, which was published as the opening chapter in an impressive book released by the conference sponsor, the Centro de Derecho Ambiental, on the final day of the conference.
The conference was terrific with its sessions featuring simultaneous translation into English and French. Speakers from Argentina, France, and Denmark also participated in the conference. The large audience was particularly impressive because it featured government officials from national and provincial agencies from all over Chile adn representatives from 10 of the 14 schools of the University of Chile. They engaged the speakers in wide-ranging discussions about the future of environmental law in Chile. Rafael Ansejo, a former CONAMA director, argued that the reorganization outlined by Señora Uriarte would only be successful if the President of Chile demonstrated the poltical will to make environmental protection a top priority.
Nestor Cafferatta, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires gave a great presentation on the use of criminal law to enforce environmental regulations. He noted that Ricardo Lorenzetti, Chief Justice of Argentina, has just published a book on The Theory of Environmental Law that argues that environmental law should be viewed as a transformative force. Chief Justice Lorenzetti states that “environmental law is a party to which all other branches of law are invited, but are told to wear new clothes.”
Following the conference I flew to Buenos Aires for the weekend. Due to heavy fog, my flight from Santiago was diverted from Ezezia International Airport to the Jorge Newbery commuter airport. While I initially thought this would get me to my hotel faster, it turned out that the small customs operation at the commuter airport was totally overwhelmed, creating a mob scene with hour-plus waits. While standing in the crowd, I heard a voice say, “Welcome to Argentina, Robert.” It was Professor Cafferatta. We had a nice conversation in Spanish where he complimented me on having mentioned Chief Justice Lorenzetti’s order to clean up the Riachuelo River in the paper published in the book released at the conference. On Sunday I visited the Riachuelo River to see for myself what progress had been made.
I was delighted to accept an invitation from Pace University to deliver their annual Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law in April 2009. This lecture series has made some rich contributions to environmental law scholarship. I plan to present an updated and greatly expanded discussion of my theme about the emergence of global law and how it is transforming the environmental law field.
After meeting with a WHO official here in Buenos Aires tomorrow morning, I will fly back to the U.S. via Santiago and D.C. I will be in D.C. and Baltimore on Tuesday before returning to China on Wednesday.