On Wednesday I taught my last Environmental Law class of the semester at Harvard Law School. Our topic was global environmental law. After I introduced the subject and discussed the ongoing negotiations to create a new global regime to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, I turned the class over to two guest speakers. Zhang Jingjing, a Chinese public interest environmental lawyer who is spending the year in New Haven as a Yale World Fellow, discussed the development of environmental law in China. She also discussed several of the cases she worked on for the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, where she was director of litigation. These included lawsuits seeking compensation for victims of air and water pollution. Jingjing and I became good friends last year when I taught in Beijing and she attended nearly all of my Environmental Law classes at the China University of Political Science and Law. Jingjing candidly discussed China’s enormous environmental problems and the obstacles that confront public interest litigation in a society that does not have an independent judiciary and a strong tradition of respect for the rule of law. She compared the situation in China to that in the U.S. four decades ago when lawyers sought to create new law to respond to environmental challenges.
Bruce Rich, senior counsel for international finance and development at the Environmental Defense Fund, spoke to the class about his efforts to force multilateral development banks and export credit agencies to be more responsive to environmental concerns. He enthusiastically embraced the concept of global environmental law, saying that he now realizes that it more accurately describes the field in which he has been practicing for the last several decades than traditional concepts of public international law.
My sports event of the week was attending Game 5 of the Boston Celtics/Chicago Bulls NBA playoff series at the Boston Garden. The Celts rallied from 11 points down late in the game to send it into overtime - the third of the five playoff games to go into overtime. The game would have gone into double overtime but for a missed free throw with two seconds left that allowed the home Celtics to prevail. While the game was amazing, it was topped by the Bulls’ win in triple overtime in game 6 on Thursday in Chicago.
On Wednesday night I hosted a happy hour for my Environmental Law class at a Cambridge bar, financed by the law school’s fund for faculty to entertain students. Bruce Rich joined us before flying back to Washington. One of my Maryland environmental law students who is a professional soccer player preparing to play for the Boston Breakers of the new Women’s Professional Soccer League also came to the happy hour. She will be interning this summer at EPA’s Boston office. My niece who lives in Cambridge also made an appearance along with one of her friends.
On Friday I flew to Beijing to start a two-week speaking tour of China sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Information. Concern about the global spread of the H1N1 virus led some people on the airplane to wear surgical masks. After the plane landed in Beijing, Chinese Customs officials came on board to distribute a new “Health Declaration Form on Entry.” The form asked what countries and cities you had visited in the past two weeks and whether you had come into contact with “patients or suspects suffering from influenza within the past 1 week.” Question 3 on the form asked: “Have you had close contact with pig within the past 1 week?” After getting off the plane, all passengers went through two sets of temperature detectors that had been deployed at Customs to screen for people potentially infected with the H1N1 virus. There have been no cases of H1N1 detected in mainland China. One case has been confirmed in Hong Kong - a traveler from Mexico. The Chinese government reportedly has located and is quarantining passengers who were on an airline flight carrying the Mexican traveler to Hong Kong.
After clearing Chinese customs, I was met at the Beijing airport by a driver from the U.S. embassy who took me to the Hilton hotel closest to the embassy. This morning he picked me up and took me to the airport to fly from Beijing to Guangzhou. On the flight to Guangzhou I had to pay excess luggage charges, probably due to the weight of 25 seminar papers written by students in my Global Environmental Law seminar at Maryland. I will be reading them while in China in order to email back the grades for students who are graduating.
Upon arriving in Guangzhou I was met by a driver from the U.S. consulate who provided me with briefing materials I studied on the way into town. When checking into my hotel in downtown Guangzhou, the reception desk asked me to consent to having my temperature taken to screen out guests who may have the H1N1 virus. After using a hand-held device that flashes light in your face, they reported that my temperature was normal.
Tomorrow I will be giving a lecture at a university, participating in a roundtable discussion with environmental lawyers from the Guangzhou Bar Association, and doing an interview with a Chinese magazine. I will be in Guangzhou until Wednesday morning when I fly to Dalian. On Thursday I will return to Beijing, before going to Chongqing and Shanghai.