Post Date: October 4, 2006
I’m more excited than ever because we had a terrific first year. We held a first-rate climate conference, which was attended by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who has a climate proposal in Congress. Our meeting took place at a pivotal moment because lots of proposals are moving through Congress and it’s time to take stock. We brought key players to HLS to discuss the policy options, and they found the exchange helpful and illuminating. We really announced ourselves in the world of environmental law and policy in an impressive way. Beyond that, we planned a very rich curriculum for the law school for next year, including courses in international environmental law and energy law in addition to the basic environmental law course that I’m teaching and that (Assistant) Professor Matthew Stephenson '03 is also going to teach. We put in place the beginning of an ambitious clinical program as well. So I’m very excited because we’ve taken big steps in a short time.
Both science and economics are disciplines that lawyers have to have some familiarity with. I don’t think they need to be the equivalent of a Ph.D., but law students need to be intelligent enough about them to know when they need an expert, and to know what they don’t know, and to know when to ask questions. This isn’t unique to environmental law. It’s true of a lot of areas - health care, for example. Part of our mission is to make sure students are literate enough.
Ironically, and tragically, Hurricane Katrina was an enormous help in communicating what happens when you don’t plan, and when you don’t have a smart agenda for environmental protection and disaster prevention. I think we’re near the crisis point. The trouble with climate change is there’s this moment at which you finally wake up to the problem, and then you think very quickly, Oh, it’s too late. So you have to begin to act immediately.
No, I don’t think it’s necessarily about political advocacy. But I do think that all decisions about where to allocate society’s resources, and how much to regulate certain activities, and what the best course is for the future - these are all inherently political decisions. Every environmental issue raises important political questions, but I don’t think going into environmental law means you’re necessarily going to be a political advocate for one position or another. There are many roles to play in the policy process.
First of all, I have to say, I think the students are fantastic. The single best feature of Harvard Law School is the students. There’s a solid core of students who identify themselves as environmentally inclined and want to work on environmental issues. And they are a very committed, impressive group.
But I’m interested in expanding this group to include people who may not wake up in the morning and think of themselves as environmentalists, but who might end up doing corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, litigation, bankruptcy, etc. Even in these traditional fields of law, you need to know something about environmental law and regulation - it’s become that important. I’m interested in building a program that interests people who don’t already self-identify.
Yes, I’m explicitly expansionist. Crucial developments in constitutional law are driven by environmental problems. The same is true of torts, administrative law and corporate law. You name the field, and I can tell you about how environmental problems and issues have driven important developments and new case law. You don’t have to be somebody who cares about environmental law per se to realize the importance of the field, just like with international law. So, I confess, I’m Napoleonic.