This is the blog post I posted on August 12 on my parallel website at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. I was unable to post it here until returning from China because blogspot apparently was block in China.
I have been in China for the past week with a group of four students from my summer Vermont Law School class in Comparative China/U.S. Environmental Law. On Wednesday August 7 we visited the Beijing offices of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Bernadette Brennan, who directs the office’s environmental law program, gave us a wonderful presentation on NRDC’s work in China. The group focuses on environment, energy, climate, and urban development issues. She explained that most of the environmental litigation in China actually has been brought on behalf of private individuals, but that the first genuine public interest suit was filed late last year by Chinese environmental groups suing a factory that had dumped chromium in a river. We also discussed NRDC’s Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI) that rates more than 100 Chinese cities on how well they are doing in providing the public with access to environmental information.
On Thursday August 8 we visited the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) near the campus of the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), where I taught as a Fulbright scholar during the spring semester 2008. CLAPV’s director Wang Canfa was in Cambodia, so we were hosted by Professor Hu Jing, who had been a visiting scholar at the University of Maryland School of Law during the 2005-06 academic year. We then visited the offices of China’s first private law firm devoted to plaintiffs’ environmental issues. Liu Jinmei, a lawyer with the firm, explained that Professor Wang and other prominent public interest environmental lawyers founded the firm to make it easier to bring certain cases in light of restrictions on litigation by organizations.
Following a lunch hosted by Professor Hu and Ms. Liu, we visited the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE) where Maryland has a student exchange program run by Professor Dan Mitterhoff. Professor Miterhoff gave us an informative presentation about the state of the Chinese legal system. He then introduced us to some of the students participating in the exchange program in which groups of Chinese students take their classes together with the students from other countries during the fall semester and then come to the U.S. for classes during the spring.
On Friday August 9 we visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu prior to catching a plane to Qingdao, a beautiful coastal city east of Beijing. Profess Yu Ming of Ocean University Law School met us at the airport in Qingdao and took us to a lovely hotel situated on a bluff above the beach. On Saturday August 10 Professor Yu led us on a hike across the beaches and around the peninsula to Little Fish Hill where we had stunningly beautiful views of the city. After a visit to a former civil air defense bomb shelter that has been converted into shopping mall, we had lunch at a wonderful family restaurant that Professor Yu has long patronized. We then went to Beer Street and toured the Beer Museum at the Tsingtao Factory. Surprisingly, an entire room of the museum was devoted to environmental issues in light of the fact that Tsingtao had been declared the top of the 100 green companies in China. The exhibits included a shrine to Rachel Carson and information on the history of global environmental law.
In the evening we visited the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center where the sailing events had been held during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Dean Xu of Ocean University then hosted us for a wonderful dinner at a hotel just across from the site of the Qingdao International Beer Festival, which had just opened. After dinner we went to the festival, which featured some amazing sights, including many people standing on tables, dancing, and spraying pitchers of beer on each other.
On Sunday August 12 we flew from Qingdao to Shanghai. On Sunday night we met Marcus and Derrick Wang at the Hyatt’s Vue Bar. Marcus, who graduated from Maryland in 2009, is now director of business development in Shanghai for Under Armour, the Maryland-based athletic apparel company. His brother Derrick, a former student of mine, is currently a 3L at Maryland and an accomplished pianist and composer.
On Monday August 13 we visited the offices of the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences (SAES). I made a presentation to the Academy on the history of air pollution control. SAES has been given the responsibility of monitoring air pollution in Shanghai and developing a strategy to control it by determining its precise sources. Dr. Changhong Chen, Director of SAES’s Atmospheric Environment Institute, gave us a tour of the Air Pollution Observation and Experiment Base and demonstrated how their highly sophisticated air pollution monitoring equipment works. After the visit to SAES, Professor Ying-ge Ma gave us a tour of the nearby Giulin Gardens.
We are so appreciative of everyone who has helped make this trip such a terrific success, in particular Professor Zhao Huiyu of Shanghai Jiaotong University Law School who helped organize the Shanghai portion of the trip, and Professor Yu Ming from Ocean University Law School who hosted us in Qingdao. Today we will tour a Chinese law firm in Pudong and tomorrow we will visit faculty from the East China University of Politics and Law and the Shanghai Government’s Energy Conservation Center.
We have been so busy on our China trip that it has been difficult to keep up on environmental news from around the world. Last week a United Nations official urged the U.S. to suspend the federal mandate to increase ethanol production because of surging global corn prices in the wake of the drought afflicting the U.S. Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, has warned that the federal mandate to produce more ethanol could divert as much as 40% of U.S. corn production into fuel, harming world food supplies. Various groups in the U.S. also are petitioning EPA to waive the ethanol mandate. Javier Blas & Gregory Meyer, UN Urges US to Cut Ethanol Production, Financial Times, Aug. 9, 2012.