On Sunday October 12 I returned from a week at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The Congress, which is held every four years, attracted 8,000 environmental leaders from governments, NGOs, academia, and businesses in 177 countries. It opened on October 5 with an impressive opening ceremony featuring the theme “What Kind of World Do We Want to See?”
The first four days of the Congress were devoted to a Forum that featured hundreds of programs, exhibits, and poster sessions addressing a dizzying array of environmental issues. For example, on Tuesday I attended a session on the impact of climate change on the Arctic region. Moderated by Fran Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, it featured Jim Leape, co-author of my Environmental Regulation casebook and now director-general of the World Wildlife Fund, His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, whose foundation has been supporting environmental initiatives, and scientist Jane Lubchenko from Oregon State University. Prince Albert showed a video of his trip to the North Pole that featured him lurching about with a GPS to locate the exact point where it would register 90 degrees north latitude where he planted the flag of Monaco. After the session I had my first opportunity to speak to Jim Leape since he moved to Switzerland to assume leadership of WWF in 2005.
While IUCN has become so large as to be almost unwieldy, one of the great features of the Congress is the diversity of its participants with scientists, lawyers, business people, activists and academics from every corner of the globe rubbing shoulders. This made for some lively exchanges at some of the sessions. At the Congress I finally got a chance to meet Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing. He is probably the only prominent environmental professional in China that I did not manage to meet during my time teaching there in the spring. His Institute has prepared a database of polluting companies in China that is available online at http://en.ipe.org.cn/ It has received wide publicity in China as a tool for citizens to put pressure on companies to reduce their pollution. He discussed his use of the database in a video interview that is online at the IUCN website http://www.iucn.org/news_events/events/congress/live/news/index.cfm?uNewsID=1850.
The Congress also featured a Conservation Cinema that continuously showed environmental films from around the world. It was inspiring to see how many NGOs are now making videos and films, many of them highly sophisticated, to communicate environmental issues to the public. I am hoping that some of the films my students have been making may be shown at a future Congress. While I was at the Congress I had a group of former students who had made environmental films in my class speak to my current class and show them the films they had made. I introduced the speakers by videoconference from my hotel room in Barcelona. On Wednesday October 8, I used videoconferencing to introduce Neal Kemkar, a former student of mine who gave a guest lecture to my class on Winter v. NRDC, an environmental case argued that morning in the Supreme Court. Neal just finished a clerkship with Judge Betty Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit, the author of the Winter decision upholding an injunction restricting the Navy’s use of sonar because of its potential to harm marine mammals.
On Thursday evening, Sheila Abed, chair of the Commission on Environmental Law, sponsored a cocktail party for commission members at a hotel across from the Convention Center. This enabled me to catch up with many other environmental law professors from around the world, including many who I will see next month in Mexico City at the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law’s annual colloquium.