On Monday my Environmental Law students showed the films they made this semester. Each year I encourage students in the class to form small groups and to choose environmental issues they care about to be the subject of short (5 to 7 minute) films. This year the class produced eight wonderfully creative films. They included: “Sustainable Harvest: A Visit to the Baltimore Farmer’s Market” by Natalie Baughman, Lisetta SIlvestri, Kim Stefanski, and Lynne McChrystal; “There Doesn’t Have to Be Blood” by Jordan Vardon (a film about the benefits of solar energy); “Urban Legends of the Inner Harbor” by Andrew Keir, Manali Patel, Eric Hergenroeder, Chris Montague-Breakwell, Daniella Einik, and Patrick Smith (a film about pollution in Baltimore’s inner harbor and the health consequences of falling into it); “The Percival News Network” by John Archibald, Carter Beach, Joey Chen, and Raima Taib (environmental news featuring an interview with Maryland Secretary of the Environment Sherri Wilson); “The Blue Mount Quarry and the Gunpowder River” by Talley Kovacs and Brooke O’Hanley (highlighting the environmental effects of an expanded quarry operation near the Gunpowder River); “Sustainable Shrimp Farming” by Eva Carbot, Aminah Famili, Jesse Iliff, Emily Lipps, Megan Mueller, Limor Weizmann (examining the how entrepreneurs in Maryland are trying to make shrimp farming sustainable); “Swann Field” by Katy Jackman, Rene Parks and Rebecca Seitz (focusing on the cleanup of arsenic contamination in a Baltimore park); and “Greenco” by Kim Myers and Scott Yager (a collection of environmental wisdom from commercials, including a marvelous scene of a Hummer talking to a Prius). After the students polish their films following exams, the films will be submitted to an independent panel of judges who will vote for “Golden Tree” awards that will be presented to the best films next March at our annual Environmental Film Awards Festival.
On Wednesday I leave for China for a reunion with the students I taught during the spring semester 2008 at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) in Beijing. I am really looking forward to seeing them again. On Friday, December 12 I will host a “Golden Trees” awards ceremony to honor the top films made by the CUPL students in my class last spring. I also will host a practice moot court session for the CUPL students who will be competing in the International Environmental Law Moot Court at Stetson University School of Law in March 2009. CUPL will become the first law school in China ever to enter this competition.
Three years ago this month I was in Beijing for a meeting of the China Council on International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) that focused on the massive benzene spill in the Songhua River that then was creating an international incident. The spill was caused by an explosion at a chemical plant in Jilin. It forced the 4-day shutdown of public water supplies in Harbin, China, a town of 4 million residents that I will be visiting on December 20th. Despite Chinese efforts to control the spill, it flowed northward across the border into Russia, sparking public protests.
The photo above, which I obtained from Bie Tao, then chief legal counsel for China’s State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), was taken when he traveled to Russia to discuss the spill with Russian officials. I showed it to my class and asked them whether anyone could translate the sign for me. After consulting with friends and relatives with Russian language skills, two students reported the following translations: “This is our order. If you take a crap, clean up after yourself.” “We have a certain procedure. Our rules are as follows: if you shit, you clean up after yourself.” The students explained that when spoken in Russian it actually rhymes and is quite clever, even if the spill was not.
On Monday the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP-14) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change convened in Poznan, Poland. Alan Miller, one of the co-authors of my Environmental Regulation casebook, is attending the conference. I spoke with him before he left and he noted that the incoming Obama administration is being represented by Senator John Kerry at the conference, which will conclude on December 12. It is hoped that this conference will produce some progress toward a new global climate agreement that could be signed when COP-15 is held in Copenhagen in December 2009.