Beginning today and for the rest of the month students in my Global Environmental Law Seminar will be guest blogging in a special section of my parallel website at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. The first two entries are by Maryland 3L Brandon Roby, who writes about Marriott International’s efforts to preserve rainforests, and 1L Christopher Chaulk, who writes about resistance in Kosovo to construction of a new coal-fired power plant. Brandon was one of the students who participated in last month’s field trip to Israel. Chris is an avid trail runner and rower, who served in the Peace Corps in Albania before coming to law school. To see their blog entries, go to www.globalenvironmentallaw.com and click on the “Students” link at the top of the page.
The Global Burden of Disease Study, published last December in the Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com/themed/global-burden-of-disease), estimated that air pollution is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, contributing to 3.2 million premature deaths annually. The authors of the study have now broken down their data by country, which they presented at a conference in Beijing a week ago. Not surprisingly, most of the global deaths from air pollution occurred in Asia. The researchers estimated that air pollution is the fourth leading cause of death in China (trailing dietary factors, high blood pressure and smoking), causing 1.2 million premature deaths there in 2010. In India air pollution was estimated to cause 620,000 premature deaths annually. Edward Wong, Early Deaths Linked to China’s Air Pollution Totaled 1.2 Million in 2010, Data Shows, N.Y. Times, April 2, 2013, at A9.
Ma Jun’s Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing has released its fourth annual Pollution Information and Transparency Index (PITI) report, developed in cooperation with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The PITI report ranks 113 cities in China on how well they ave performed in making environmental information available to the public under China’s Open Information Law. Data from 2012 showed improvement in the average performance of officials in these cities, particularly in top performing cities. However, the report found that some cities regressed and others still provided almost no environmental information with the principal problem areas being disclosure of environmental impact assessments, environmental violations, and emissions data. The report calls for public disclosure on online monitoring data from key polluters, comprehensive disclosure of government supervisory and enforcement data, and periodic publication of emissions data for pollutants covered by environmental impact assessments. As environmental conditions have continued to deteriorate in China, the public is becoming increasingly militant in demanding greater transparency. Barbara Finamore, NRDC’s Asia Director, expresses optimism that China may move toward regular publication of some form of Pollution Release and Transfer Register, as more than 50 other countries have done (see, e.g., the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory). Barbara Finamore, A Step Forward for Environmental Transparency in China, http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/bfinamore/a_step_forward_for_environment.html
On April 4 I participated in a networking panel roundtable on Environmental Health and Environmental Justice as part of the University of Maryland’s efforts to foster greater multi-disciplinary collaboration on public health issues. The roundtable was part of a day-long event, “Public Health Research @ Maryland,” which brought faculty from throughout the University of Maryland System to the College Park Campus to discuss work they are doing and ways in which they can improve collaboration. I met some terrific people who are doing cutting edge work studying the sources of Chesapeake Bay pollution and the impact of exposure to environmental toxins on humans.
On April 1 I attended Washington Nationals Opening Day for the ninth consecutive year. On April 5 my interests in sports and constitutional law led me to serve as the moderator for the opening panel of a conference on "Social Media and the Law: An Exploratory Look into the Legal Effects of Online Interconnectedness." The conference was sponsored by Maryland’s Journal of Business and Technology Law. The panel that I moderated focused on constitutional issues raised by efforts to control use of social media by student athletes. It featured Phil Closius, former dean of the University of Baltimore and the University of Toledo, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, intellectual property and sports law practitioner Bradley Shear, and Matt Taylor, the associate director of media relations for the University of Maryland Athletic Department. The panelists offered some vivid examples of controversies caused by the use of social media by athletes and they explored tensions between student privacy and free speech rights and universities’s responsibility to police student behavior.