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Dan Farber recently posted at Legal Planet on the environmental aspects US President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society". From the post:
When he announced the Great Society in a commencement speech at the University of Michigan, Johnson gave the environment a leading place. He began his May 1964 speech with the plight of American cities, where he decried “the decay of the centers and the despoiling of the suburbs.” Then he turned to the environment: “The water we drink, the food we eat, the very air that we breathe, are threatened with pollution. Our parks are overcrowded, our seashores overburdened. Green fields and dense forests are disappearing.” He added, “For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.”
Johnson’s Presidency was accompanied by a surge of environmental laws. Here are some of the laws he signed:
1963 The Clean Air Act
1964 The Pesticide Control Bill
The Water Quality Act
The Wilderness Act
1965 The Water Resource Planning Act
The Water and Sanitation Systems in Rural Areas Bill
The Solid Waste Disposal Bill
The Safe Water Conservation Act
1966 The Air Quality Act
National Historic Preservation Act
Endangered Species Act
1967 The National Water Commission
Wild and Scenic Rivers
Wetlands Preservation Bill
Many of these laws are remembered today only as the preludes to the stronger laws that followed in the 1970s. But these Johnson-era laws provided the foundation for that later legislation, and they set the precedent for vigorous federal protection of the environment.
For a different list of environmental laws signed by LBJ, see here.
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Eric Ash's The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England (JHU Press, 2016) was recently reviewed by Bob Silvester in Environment and History (for an interview with the author see here). Famous common law judges play a big role in this story. The review reports that Ash:
Sir John Popham,
copy by George Perfect Harding, after unknown
succeeds admirably though is in fleshing out the procedures – there is a masterly commentary on the commissions of sewers – and events that have been dealt with only cursorily in the past. Lord Chief Justice Popham’s plans to dry out the Great Level, which resulted in little more than the construction of a large drain known as Popham’s Eau lying east of March in Cambridgeshire, seemed an obscure event when I worked in the Fens in the 1980s...; just what Popham sought to achieve and how it fitted into the overall sequence of drainage ventures is now much clearer through the careful analysis of archival material.
Regarding the author's statement that his "principal goal is to use the drainage projects to connect the broader political, economic, social and environmental developments of the era", Silvester writes that "there are times when fenland drainage appears to be subsumed within a broader discourse as simply an outstanding example of state-building in progress. It accounts for the lengthy digression on Lord Chief Justice Coke’s interference in fenland affairs around 1609".

For more on Commissions of Sewers and drainage law, see here.
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Suncor oilsands mine near Fort McMurray (Todd Korol, Toronto Star)
Though Israel's coming elections revolve around other issues (and non-issues), a major political issue in Israel over the last decade has been how to divide the profits of the country's natural gas finds between the developers and the public (the legal owners of the resource). While environmental groups have argued - and this has also been my natural inclination - that the public's ownership should be expressed with a relatively large "government take" (the percentage of revenue paid over to the state in the form of royalties and taxes), I have also noted that increasing the government's financial interest in the gas decreases its motivation to effectively regulate the environmental aspects of its development.

Hereward Longley's recent article in Environment and History, "Conflicting Interests: Development Politics and the Environmental Regulation of the Alberta Oil Sands Industry, 1970–1980", provides historical support for this argument. The abstract:
This article examines the relationship between development politics and environmental regulation and research during the first commercial development phase of the oil sands industry. As demand for oil grew after the Second World War, and oil supplies from the Middle East became less stable, oil companies began building facilities to produce synthetic oil from the bitumen deposits in north-eastern Alberta. The commercialisation of the oil sands industry coincided with the formalisation of environmental policy at both the provincial and federal levels. When the Progressive Conservative Party, led by Premier Peter Lougheed, formed a government after winning the 1971 election, it strengthened and expanded the scope of environmental regulation into the mid-1970s. The 1973 oil crisis changed the economic viability and importance of the oil sands industry. For Lougheed, the oil sands industry became a cornerstone of the PC government’s goals to diversify the Alberta economy. To save the Syncrude project after Atlantic Richfield withdrew its thirty per cent stake in the consortium in December 1974, the Alberta government bought a ten per cent position along with the federal government and Ontario. This article argues that investing in the oil sands industry created a conflict of interest for the Alberta government, as it became both the regulator and the developer of the resource. Using a range of archival sources and oral history, it shows how Alberta’s environmental policies and research programmes were sidelined by the Lougheed government in the latter half of the 1970s, culminating in the cancellation of the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program in 1980. The marginalisation of environmental regulation and research has contributed to the environmental impacts of the oil sands industry on ecosystems and Indigenous communities, and limited public awareness of environmental change.
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The Qianlong Emperor Hunting Hare, by Giuseppe Castiglione (1755)
Last year Inner Asia published Khohchahar Chulu's "The Formation and Regulations of the Military Hunt in Qing Mongolia". (Thanks to Mitra Shirafi at Legal History Blog for noting it.) The abstract:
In the Mongolian tradition, hunting and war have had strong connections with each other. During the Qing Empire, Mongolian hunts were not only local practices, but were also involved in the Qing empire-building project. On the other hand, the collective hunt itself was by nature a dangerous activity that contained potential physical risks from wild animal attacks as well as human errors. It is conventionally understood that the hunt therefore must have been well organised in order to secure success and security. But how a hunt was organised and operated in reality has not yet been well examined. This study explores the organisational structure and regulations of a military hunt in Qing Inner Mongolia, a geographically important zone where both the Manchus and Mongols actively held hunts. The primary focus of this article is the nineteenth-century Alasha Banner grand hunt, a well-organised and documented Mongolian military hunt from the Qing period.
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More on Debjani Bhattacharyya: Rohan D'Souza recently reviewed her Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (Cambridge UP, 2018) for H-Water. D'Souza writes:
Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta announces a shift in gears within the bourgeoning and bustling field of the environmental histories of South Asia. Instead of taking the familiar route that revisits themes in the existing canon—forests, irrigation, and carnivore control—Debjani Bhattacharyya cuts an altogether fresh path by exploring how radical ecological change was critical to the making of urban colonial Calcutta (today’s Kolkata). The core claims in the book pivot on the many arduous British efforts from the late eighteenth century onward to transform Calcutta’s soggy marshy origins into landed concrete spaces—the firmed-up surfaces upon which were built residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure and the basis for widespread financial speculation in real estate.
Whereas much of the detail on the drying out of British India’s premier colonial city can be found in a fairly voluminous documentation on drainage works, reclamation projects, and hydraulic engineering schemes, these admittedly technical accounts, we are cautioned, fail to meaningfully grasp the actual “secrets-of-land-making” (p. 1). transformation of “floating watery soils” into firm land, Bhattacharyya argues, was principally an ideological project that was profoundly underwritten by the notion of landed property, which, as a “legal technology” to “demarcate land, marsh, accretion and water,” actively triggered the clotting of Calcutta into urban soil (p. 23). Colonial landed property, moreover, by being set on a treadmill of economic valuation inevitably transmuted into the archetypal capitalist commodity: subject to the logics of the market and the relentless pursuit of profit. Unsurprisingly, therefore, as Calcutta in the early decades of the twentieth century began to explode into a crowded city—short on space, cramped with people, and lacking affordable housing—a thriving and ferocious urban land market burst forward. While Bhattacharyya does provide a riveting account of the aggressive jostling for land among an increasingly vocal working class, sundry lobbies of builders, extortionate landlords, the oscillating fates of rent speculators, and various interventions by municipal authorities, the discussion, however, is more pointedly aimed at returning us to the “secret.”
What finally emerged from the protracted confrontations over land scarcity, we are told, was a less advertised, if not entirely unstated, consensus among the various contending urban interests: that the outlying marshes and untidy swamps were “lands-in-waiting” rather than distinct hydrological phenomena (p. 172). This unanimous and determined call for cutting off the city from its “watery hinterlands,” in Bhattacharyya’s estimate, actually sought to mask a radical ecological rupture by which land and water were meant to be split into distinct and separable entities, instead of being acknowledged as ecologically entwined domains and integral to Bengal’s deltaic environments.
More at H-Water.
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The American Historical Review recently published Miranda Johnson's "The Case of the Million-Dollar Duck: A Hunter, His Treaty, and the Bending of the Settler Contract". The abstract:
In settler states such as Canada, indigenous peoples’ claims for sovereignty in the late twentieth century became matters of intense public and political debate. Provoked by widespread indigenous rights activism of the 1970s, the Canadian state embarked on a large-scale examination of claims for rights and restitution. By focusing on the 1962 case of a duck hunter who insisted on his treaty right to hunt as he pleased in a Canadian borderlands region that was becoming more tightly woven into the fabric of the settler nation, this article argues for the value of recovering the discursive strategies of indigenous peoples in making sovereign claims prior to 1970s activism. I suggest that such claims were effective in bending the “settler contract,” which refers to the founding of settler states in dispossession and the silencing of indigenous actors. My approach brings to the fore a distinctive form of non-elite politics, what I call “treaty talk,” or the vernacular stories, civic rituals, and political disputes concerning the treaty promises that Canadian authorities made to northern indigenous communities earlier in the twentieth century. Although treaty talk did not break the settler contract, it posed a significant challenge to settler law and led one judge to reinvent a Canadian myth of benevolent empire.
Dene men gathered for Treaty Day at Fort Resolution, ca. 1924
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[Excerpted from H-Announce:]

Ordering the Anthropocene: Law & the Environment in the Indian Ocean World  

A workshop convened by Debjani Bhattacharyya (Drexel University) and Laurie Wood (Florida State University)4-5th October 2019

Hosted by the Department of History,  Drexel University, with the generous sponsorship of the American Society for Legal History & Drexel University

What can historians of law achieve from engaging with their colleagues studying environmental changes over time? How have emerging regulatory regimes (imperial, property-oriented, maritime, medical, etc.) joined the domains of science and law in new ways? And how can legal historians retool their methods to study deep histories of landscape transformations and climate? These questions are especially pertinent for the Indian Ocean region, where these concerns have both past and contemporary relevance: e.g. rising sea levels in the Maldives and Andaman Islands; coastal erosion and disputes over new-land formation along the littorals of Bay of Bengal; island-building in Singapore (with sand from Gulf states); disaster relief following the 2004 tsunami and earthquake, which especially affected Indonesia and Malaysia; food security around the Horn of Africa; and some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

*****

The workshop will consist of 4 panels, with 2 presenters in each panel. We will pair legal historians with historians of environment to explore how common terminology around evidence, witness, reason, expertise is affected by concepts of time that are distinct in each discipline. We welcome papers exploring the following questions broadly:

  • Where does law/do legal regimes collide with the material world?
  • Where/when/how/why do natural phenomena become entangled in ordering regimes?
  • How do these relationships (re)configure the human as social (e.g. relational, hierarchical, vocal) and material (e.g. embodied, constrained by lifespan, etc.)?
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John Day River, Oregon
Michael Blumm and Max Yoklic recently posted "The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act at 50: Overlooked Watershed Protection". The abstract:
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) marked its fiftieth anniversary in 2018 without much fanfare. The WSRA has been somewhat overshadowed by the Wilderness Act, which preceded it by four years, and by the National Environmental Policy Act and the pollution control statutes which followed in the 1970s. But the WSRA was a significant conservation achievement, has now extended its protections to over 200 rivers, and has the potential to provide watershed protection to many more in the future. This article explains the statute and its implementation over the last half-century as well as a number of challenges to fulfilling its laudable goals of protecting free-flowing rivers, their water quality, and their “outstandingly remarkable values.” We make a number of suggestions to the managing agencies and to Congress if the WSRA’s achievements over the next half-century are to match the last fifty years, including reviving congressional interest in study rivers, updating managing agencies’ river plans to focus on non-federal lands within river corridors, and ensuring that those river plans provide the watershed protection Congress envisioned when it included a significant amount of riparian land within WSRA river corridors. We also call for a new emphasis on rivers that should be studied for their restoration potential and for more states to take advantage of the statute’s unusual pathway for state-designated rivers to gain WSRA protections.
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Shourya Sen and Richard Adelstein recently posted "Fishing Rights and Colonial Government: Institutional Development in the Bengal Presidency". The abstract:
We examine the evolution of fishing rights in colonial Bengal through a series of cases heard at the Calcutta High Court in the 1880s and culminating in the passage of legislation in 1889. We posit an implicit relational contract between the colonizing British and the landowning class in colonial Bengal as a way to understand the concurrent evolution of fishing rights and institutions of governance in the region. The system of incentives created by this contract determined the development of fishing rights at a crucial moment in the history of colonial Bengal and, more broadly, became a primary mechanism of institutional change in the region. The analysis also shows the Calcutta High Court to have acted, albeit in vain, as a truly independent judiciary.
Macchi, a Muslim caste of fishermen, from Tashrih al-aqvam (1825)
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Vanessa Casado Pérez and Carlos Gómez Ligüerre recently posted "From Nuisance to Environmental Protection in Continental Europe". The abstract:
This paper analyzes the evolution and complexity of the legal response to neighboring conflicts in European civil law countries. All of the civil codes analyzed (France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and Catalonia) are based on Roman Law rules that are not always clear. The fuzziness of those Roman Law rules explains, in part, why despite this common origin, the Civil Codes did not respond homogeneously to nuisances. The first subsection briefly describes the institution of nuisance in Roman Law. Then, the paper describes the original codification of nuisance and the changes in the treatment of this institution. After assessing the initial divergence and the trends towards similar rules across jurisdictions, the paper explains the potential forces of convergence at the European level: the Draft Common Frame of Reference, the European Union Environmental Liability Directive, and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. It is important to note that this article only focuses on regulations and remedies related to non-trespassory invasions on real property, not on non-invasive, aesthetic nuisances.
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