10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium

10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium
More than 250 environmental experts from 35 countries gather at the University of Maryland for the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel
Maryland students vist Israel's first solar power plant in the Negev desert as part of a spring break field trip to study environmental issues in the Middle East

Workshop with All China Environment Federation

Workshop with All China Environment Federation
Participants in March 12 Workshop with All China Environment Federation in Beijing

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition
Jordanian Justice Minister Aymen Odah presents trophy to Noura Saleh & Niveen Abdel Rahman from Al Al Bait University along with US AID Mission Director Jay Knott & ABA's Maha Shomali

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Global Environmental Law: New Research

Ricardo Luis Lorenzetti, the Chief Justice of Argentina, has sent me a copy of his wonderful new book, Teoría del Derecho Ambiental (Theory of Environmental Law). The book, which is in Spanish, argues that environmental law represents a new paradigm that should change the way we think about many different areas of law. The book begins by discussing elements of the environmental paradigm and the paradigm’s impact on values and economics. It then discusses environmental law and its principles and values. The third chapter addresses environmental risk and uncertainty and principles of prevention and precaution and how they should change the legal system’s approach to environmental issues. The book then discusses implementation and enforcement of environmental standards.

Adding greatly to the value of the book is a 128-page appendix that provides details on nearly 100 environmental cases that have been brought in Argentine courts during the last decade. The cases are organized by the type of action: amparo, cautelares, competencia, daños y perjuicios, inconstitucionalidad, and others (including a few criminal cases). This rich book will take me some time to digest, but it will be immensely valuable to my project with Tseming Yang to develop the first casebook on global environmental law. I am immensely grateful to Chief Justice Lorenzetti for sending me a copy of his book, which our library also is purchasing.

On Friday Tseming and I had a conference call with our casebook editor, John Devins of Aspen Publishing. We reviewed the production schedule for the project and agreed that we would make every effort to ensure that the book is available for use in class by the fall semester 2009.

Another great addition to the growing literature on global environmental law is Lesley McAllister’s new book: Making Law Matter: Environmental Protection & Legal Institutions in Brazil. Lesley is a law professor at the University of San Diego School of Law. The book is published by Stanford University Press for whom I reviewed the book manuscript. It compares environmental enforcement in different Brazilian states and assesses the influence of the Brazilian Ministério Público. Tseming and I will be featuring Professor McAllister’s findings in the enforcement chapter of our global environmental law casebook.

As the opening of the Olympics in China approaches on August 8, considerable attention is being focused on efforts to clean up the environment in Beijing. While China’s ambitious plans to take half the cars in Beijing off the road are now being implemented, they do not seem to have ensured acceptable levels of air pollution. While air quality was considerably improved in Beijing early last week, by the end of the week, it was once again at unhealthy levels. Weather conditions will probably have more effect on air quality during the Olympics than any other single factor. If it rains and is windy air quality may be very good so long as the winds do not involve a dust storm off the desert.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Latest Riachuelo Decision & Return from China

On July 8, 2008 the Supreme Court of Argentina issued another remarkable ruling in its ongoing effort to clean up the Matanza -Riacheulo River Basin in Buenos Aires. In June 2006 the Supreme Court ordered the federal, provincial and local governments to develop a plan to remediate severe environmental contamination that threatens the health of millions of poor residents of the area (see blog entry for October 8, 2007 on my other site at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com under "weekly blog"). In response to this order, the governments agreed to create a new Riachuelo River Basin Authority and to develop a long-term cleanup plan. In September 2006 the Supreme Court held landmark public hearings where government agencies, polluting companies, and NGOs presented their views on how to clean up the area. After listening to the testimony of some of the companies, Chief Justice Lorenzetti remarked that they tried to make it sound as if “the river polluted itself.” The new decision by the Supreme Court seeks to focus and speed up the cleanup process. It directs the River Basin Authority to inspect all businesses in the basin within 30 days and it directs all polluting companies to present their own cleanup plans within the same period. Measures to prevent clandestine waste dumping and illegal settlements must be in place within six months. The Court specified that any failure to comply with these orders could result in fines being levied by it personally against National Environment Secretary Romina Piccolotti, the head of the River Basin Authority.

The Center for Human Rights and the Environment (CEDHA) based in Cordoba, Argentina states that the Court’s decision “is as historic as it is controversial.” It is “the first time in Argentine history that the Supreme Court is engaging directly in defining public environmental policy”. A copy of the Court’s decision (in Spanish) is available at: http://www.cedha.org.ar/docs/fallo_riachuelo080708.pdf. CEDHA’s July 15th press release reacting to the decision is available at: http://www.cedha.org.ar/en/more_information/river.php. I wish to thank Nestor Cafferatta for sending me a copy of the Court’s decision.

Last Tuesday I left Beijing and moved back to the United States. The night before I left Wang Canfa hosted me for a farewell dinner. We went to the Baguobuyi Restaurant. Following dinner we watched a terrific demonstration of traditional Chinese mask dancing. Also at dinner was Wang Jing, my student assistant, who accompanied me to the airport on Tuesday. I will really miss her. I cannot imagine a better group of hosts than I had during my semester at the China University of Political Science and Law.

During the upcoming fall semester I will be back at Maryland teaching Environmental Law and Administrative Law. But I plan to continue working closely with my many friends in the environmental community in China. I have just completed a short article “The Challenge of Chinese Environmental Law” that will be published in the fall 2008 edition of The International Environmental News, a newsletter published by the International Law Section of the American Bar Association. In September I will be on a panel on Chinese environmental law at the annual fall meeting of the ABA’s Section on Environment, Energy and Resources in Phoenix. As soon as my classes are completed at Maryland in early December, I plan to return to China to host an environmental law film festival and awards ceremony at the China University of Political Science and Law and to work with the Chinese entrants in the upcoming International Environmental Moot Court Competition.

There are many things that I will miss about living in Beijing, including the following:
THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT BEIJING
My wonderful Chinese students who made this the most rewarding teaching experience of my life
The Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (Wang Canfa, Xu Kedzu, Zhang Jingjing)
World class restaurants (Blu Lobster, Hatsune, Made in China, Noble Court, Lan)
Tui Travel and my travel agents April Mo and Winwin Song
Fellow Fulbrighters
The great sense of humor exhibited by my Mandarin tutor
Foot massages at Dragonfly
Late night conversations with Dan Guttman, Zhang ZeeZee and Alan Lepp.
Home delivery of the China Daily
Oriental Plaza
Exploring the Great Wall in three different locations
Beijing’s proximity to so many great weekend travel destinations
The doormen at my Centennial Heights apartment
Quick lunches at Circling Sushi just before leaving for class
Watching the progress of construction on the new CCTV towers (“the pants”)

There also are a few things that I will not miss about living in Beijing, including the following:
THINGS I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT BEIJING
Air pollution that makes seeing blue sky or white clouds a rare event
Being unable to use tap water even to brush your teeth
Taxis without working seat belts
Traffic that does not stop even for pedestrians in crosswalks with a green light
Cellphone spam on China Mobile
Poorly qualified posers representing the U.S. point of view on CCTV-9’s “Dialogue” program
Moments of terror from near collisions in taxis
Scammers who say they “just want to practice their English”
Hawkers who won’t take “no” for an answer even when you say it in Chinese
Censorship of CNN International and BBC news reports on topics sensitive to Chinese government

Amazingly, despite my five months living in Beijing, there are several places I never managed to visit:
PLACES I FAILED TO VISIT ON THIS TRIP, BUT WILL BE SURE TO SEE NEXT TIME
Beijing Zoo (last visited in 1981)
Inside of the National Theater (“the Egg”)
Inside of the National Olympic Stadium (“the Bird’s Nest”)
Inside of the National Aquatic Center (“the Water Bubble”)
Summer Palace (last visited in 1981)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Yunnan Province & Macau

This week, my final full week in China, included some diverse travel experiences. Early on Monday morning my daughter Marita and I flew from Chengdu in Sichuan Province to Lijiang in Yunnan Province. We visited a Naxi village outside of Lijiang in the morning. A local woman invited us into her house, served us tea, and showed us around her extended family compound. In the afternoon we visited Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, an enormous rock massif that overlooks Lijiang. The highest peak of the rock massif, which reminded me a bit of Torres del Paine in Patagonia, rises to a height of 5,596 meters (or 18,359 feet). We took a chairlift up the mountain to the Glacier Park at an elevation of 4,506 meters (14,783 feet). While I have previously climbed to elevations above 20,000 feet, both Marita and I were feeling the altitude so we did not spend long there.

On Tuesday we drove over the Lijiang Pass to the other side of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to hike to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest canyons in the world and is one of the few places in China where environmentalists have been successful (for now) in stopping a plan by the Chinese government to build a dam. The gorge is a 9-mile long canyon formed by the Yangtze River. From the end of the road on the east side of the river we hiked along a three-mile trail to the most dramatic point in the gorge where the tiger allegedly leapt over the rocks to give the gorge its name. A tiger statue has been erected there. The trail is cut out of the side of a sheer mountain cliff and in places the trail has been replaced by tunnels dug into the cliffs to protect hikers from falling rocks. Several minders with megaphones are posted on the trail to urge hikers to hug the side of the cliff so that they will be less exposed to rockfalls. The scenery was truly spectacular, although the Yangtze River is chocolate in color at this point as a result of runoff into it even though it is not far from its mountain source.

On Wednesday Marita and I flew from Lijiang to Kunming and then back to Beijing. Photos of our trip to Yunnan Province are posted online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100297.

Marita returned to the U.S. on Thursday. On Thursday night I went to a farewell dinner for some of the Fulbright scholars who are in Beijing at the Tenggali-Tala Mongolian Restaurant. On Friday I flew to Macau for the weekend. Macau, a former Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong, is a fascinating combination of old and new, east and west. Gambling is legal there, which attracts many tourists who arrive by ferry from Hong Kong. Macau now boasts the world’s largest casino, but I discovered that its airport is a bit primitive. When it rains, all airport operations are suspended, which meant that I had to wait one hour and forty-five minutes before my bag was unloaded from my plane after I arrived. I visited some of the casinos, but did not gamble. On Saturday I hiked across the Macau peninsula and ate lunch at Littoral, a wonderful Portuguese restaurant that had great seafood (and port wine).

I am now back in Beijing. After a farewell dinner tomorrow night, I move back to the U.S. on Tuesday. In the weeks to come I will have lots more news about global environmental law and less about my travels.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

WHO Project, Return to China & Panda Breeding Base

While spending the weekend in Buenos Aires last Sunday, I attempted to make a day trip to Montevideo, Uruguay. However, after I boarded the Busquebus ferry in Puerto Madera intense fog set in and delayed the boat’s departure for several hours, forcing me to abandon my plans and to stay in Buenos Aires. On Monday June 30 I had a great meeting with Carlos Dora from the World Health Organization (WHO) who is directing a project on which I am consulting to advise developing countries on the potential for using environmental law to recover for damage to public health caused by pollution. On Monday afternoon I flew back to Santiago to catch my return flight to the United States, arriving on Tuesday morning. During the 26 hours that I was back in the D.C. area I had a nice visit with my family and made a quick stop at work in Baltimore.

On Wednesday July 2 I returned to China with my daughter Marita who is 19 years old. It is Marita’s first trip to China. We arrived in Beijing on Thursday afternoon and brushed off jet lag by joining Zhang Jingjing and a group of my Chinese students for dinner. On Friday morning Marita and I walked from my apartment to Tiananmen Square and then we visited the 798 Art District in northeast Beijing. On Friday afternoon my student Wang Xiahui joined us for a shopping expedition to the Pearl Market and the Silk Market. On Saturday we joined Zhang Jingjing and a group of her friends for an exploration of an area of the Great Wall at Jiangkou that is rarely visited by tourists. After a stop for lunch at a local home in the area two hours northeast of Beijing, we hiked up a mountain to the Wall and enjoyed some truly spectacular scenery with few other people around. On Sunday night my friends Dan Guttman, Zhong Zeezee, and Alan Lepp joined Marita and I for dinner and then came over to my apartment to watch the films my environmental law students made.

On Sunday morning Marita and I flew to Chengdu to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Prior to last May’s earthquake, we had been planning to visit the Wolong Panda Research Center in the mountains outside of Chengdu adjoining the protected area that is the largest habitat for pandas in the wild. However, the earthquake caused severe damage to the Center, killing five staff members and one panda, and it is now closed to the public. Instead of visiting Wolong, we went to the Chengdu Research Base where 60 pandas currently live. The Chengdu Base has the most successful captive breeding program for pandas in the world. We spent two and a half hours at the Base observing pandas and watching a movie that explained the panda breeding program and how pandas grow and develop. In return for a substantial donation to the Base, Marita was given an opportunity to hold a panda cub, 8-month old Shu Ling. Because pandas grow very fast this 8-month old cub was nearly as large as Marita. Photos of Marita in Beijing and Chengdu are posted online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci#100280

On Sunday night we had dinner at a famous local restaurant in Chengdu with Chen Xiang Zu, his wife, and Xu Rong, the husband of Zhang Jingjing’s best friend Delia. Xiang Zu and his wife are retired physicians who formerly worked in the area hardest hit by the May earthquake. They described what it was like to be there during the quake and their frantic efforts to reunite with their families. Xiang Zu offered to take us on a tour of the quake-affected area, but we have to leave in the early morning to fly to Yunnan Province.

My Chinese students have finished their final examinations in Environmental Law and Comparative Environmental Law. I am now grading them and I will submit the grades before I return to the U.S. the week after next.