Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Major Chemical Plant Fire In Illinois Leads to Environmental Concerns

 A major chemical plant caught fire and exploded over the last week in Rockton, Illinois, near Rockford and the state line with Wisconsin. The plant manufactured solvents, lubricating oils, and greases. As you can imagine, there are serious concerns about the environmental impact of the fire, the emissions from the fire, and any leakages that may have occurred. A video of the fire is below. There were reports of ash falling as far away as DeKalb.


As reported by the Illinois Chronicle, the state's EPA is involved and citing violations in the plant as a result of the explosion and fire. They are also seeking information as to the nature of the emissions and the causes of the fire. 

This is a story that we may be hearing about for some time given the nature of the emissions.

Sustainability Case Studies 21: Methodology for Selection of Sustainability Criteria: A Case of Social Housing in Peru

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This is the 21st post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the review.

This Chapter is called Methodology for Selection of Sustainability Criteria:  A Case of Social Housing in Peru by Daniel R. Rondinel-Oviedo and Christopher Schreier-Barreto. The chapter is a fascinating review of work that the authors completed on how to assess sustainability of social housing.


The chapter begins with a bit of background on housing and sustainability. The authors also note that access to quality housing globally is at a deficit. In Latin American and the Caribbean, only 22% of families have access to quality and adequate housing. In Peru, the site of the case study, there are 1.8 million people without adequate housing and 7.6 million people live in slums.Significant construction is needed to provide housing to the population in Peru.

Is this being done sustainably?

First, as the author's note, there are a wide array of differences in how sustainable housing is defined. Different sustainable evaluation tools measure different things. For example, the well-know US Green Building tool focuses heavily on environmental impacts and does not focus on social or economic impacts as much. Plus, most of the tools for assessing sustainable building were developed in developed countries. In developing countries, where utility services can be spotty and where equity may be more important than things like building materials, tools for evaluating building sustainability may be challenging to employ. Indeed, the authors utilize the idea of fractal triangles to demonstrate "...multiple interactions that can occur between the aspects that converge..." 

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The chapter continues through interesting discussions on sustainability in architecture, sustainable social housing in less-developed countries, and sustainable building certifications. What is fascinating is that while there is a tremendous need for social housing in Latin America and the Caribbean, and while there is a push to make more of this housing sustainable, only most of the sustainability efforts are isolated. Certainly there are programs to provide financial incentives for including sustainable architecture and building, but they are not widely used. There are also few local building sustainability certifications in Latin American and the Caribbean that are designed for the region. Peru, when the article was written, had 12 buildings certified for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design--a US Green Building Coalition rating system) and 102 others in the process of certification. However, it is important to note that non of these certifications were for social housing.

The chapter next moves into a discussion of the development of a sustainability rating system for social housing developed by the authors. At the broadest levels, the categories for evaluation were water, indoor environmental quality, architectural design, energy, material, site and environment, and social/environmental. Within these categories, a further list of 25 criteria were developed. Each of these were further broken down into subcriteria. For example, under the energy category, one criteria is passive strategies for energy efficiency. This criteria was broken into two sub criteria:  sunshades in facade and cool roofs. A complete list of criteria and subcriteria is given within the article. Bonus points can be given for particular green special initiatives. The authors evaluated the rating system and came up with some interesting results that indicate that there are significant challenges to actual outcomes.

The authors conclude by noting that there remain challenges with creating social housing throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and that there are also challenges with infusing sustainability in efforts to create more housing in the region. Some of the biggest challenges are a lack of awareness about the field among professionals involved with constructing social housing in the region and a lack of overall local evaluation or sustainability criteria.

Click here for more information about the book.

Here are some discussion questions when using this chapter for a unit on green building and social housing within the realm of sustainability. 

1. How does the concept of sustainability intersect with the need for social housing?

2. Explain what the author's mean by the concept of the "fractal triangle".

3. Why do you think it is hard to apply traditional green building rating systems in some settings in developing countries?

4. Why do you think Peru has so few building that are certified through a sustainability rating system?

5. In the case study, the authors highlight a building rating system for social housing that uses social and economic categories. Review the categories and explain why they are important within the context of social housing.

6. Why do you think there is a need for housing in Latin America and the Caribbean?

7. Does Peru have a national strategy that embraces sustainability? Why or why not?

8. The issue of energy is common in most building rating systems. How does rating of energy in social housing differ from the rating of energy in other buildings?

Previous Entries in This Series

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

12,000 Acres of Florida Farmland and Panther Habitat to Become Home to 11,000 People in Collier County

Developers are soon to break ground on one of Florida's newest mega developments in Collier County--in an area that is home to some of the only remaining habitat of the Florida panther. Environmentalists and locals are concerned over the increase of people and traffic in one of the few parts of the state that retains a rural character.

According to this news story here from local Fox 4 News, the new development will cover 12,000 acres. Developers claim that they are trying to protect some of the land from development--even though the increase in roads and traffic will certainly push wildlife away. 

It is odd that this development is happening at all. Florida's population growth isn't what it once was. For much of the twentieth century, the population of the state more or less doubled every decade. Over the last few decades the rate of growth has slowed significantly. The state's real estate market, while still strong, is not as robust as it once was. 

The development has somewhat split environmental groups in the region with some pushing hard against the development--particularly the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Other environmental groups signed onto what some call a "grand bargain" that gave developers a pass if they would preserve key areas and provide underpasses for wildlife. You can read a bit about this issue here in this op-ed by the President and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Even if some land is preserved, any ecologist will tell you that less open land means less habitat and more people means more wildlife/human conflicts that nearly always ends with the death of the animal. It is thought that only about 230 panthers exist in the wild--sixteen of which are known to have died this year. Eleven of those deaths were from collisions with automobiles. Does the development of new residential developments in rural Florida sound like a great grand bargain for the environment to you?

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Grand Staircase-Esccalante National Monument in Utah. This is one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the former president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

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Previous On the Brink posts on the U.S. National Monuments

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Cascade Siskiyou National Monument
Castillo de San Marco National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument
Castle Mountains National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument
César E. Chávez National Monument
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Devils Postpile National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument
El Malpais National Monument
El Morro National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort McHenry National Monument
Fort Monroe National Monument
Fort Ord National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Fort Stanwix National Monument
Fort Union National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Freedom Riders National Monument
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
George Washington Carver National Monument
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gold Butte National Monument
Governors Island National Monument

Monday, June 14, 2021

Meatless Monday Series: Part 1. Where Did Meatless Monday Come From?

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Today I kick off a new On the Brink series on Meatless Monday to highlight one of the easiest ways you can make a difference in creating a more sustainable world. Today, and for the next four Mondays, I will highlight different aspects of Meatless Monday and why it is such a powerful tool to address global and national sustainability issues. 

Today, in Part 1, I am exploring how and when the Meatless Monday initiative emerged. As you will see, it has grown significantly from its early days. 

For centuries, societies developed food guidance that included particular diets for different days of the week. Today, many modern religions have meat-free days. Catholics, for example, have long had the tradition of meat-free Fridays. The Friday fish fry dinner get together is still a regular activity in many parishes. Plus, during times of emergencies, leaders often urge people to change their diets so that they can divert meat for military troops or because of low production numbers. This type of rationing occurred in the United States during both World War I and II. People were urged to grown their own food as well during those years.

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Today's idea of Meatless Monday emerged from an advertising campaign developed by the noted marketing creative director, Sidney Lerner, who passed away this year in January. Lerner, who many older folks in the US might now from his Please don't squeeze the Charmin toilet paper campaign, realized that marketing can have a big impact on public health if it is used for the greater good. As a result, he created The Monday Campaigns in partnership with the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in 2003.

Since the Meatless Monday program started in partnership with a public health focus, the early initiatives highlighted the health benefits of eating less meat. However, as climate change became a more pressing issue in recent years, the program has highlighted the planetary benefits of choosing to eat less meat.

The beauty of Meatless Monday is the clarity of the initiative. The ask is simple. Don't eat meat on Monday. That's it. Even if you are a major carnivore, you can find something you can eat that doesn't have meat once a week. The options are endless--and delicious. The Monday Campaigns provides a ton of recipes and resources to help individuals or groups in their efforts. You can find them here

One of the great things about this campaign is that it focuses on Monday and Monday is a day of new beginnings for most of us. We start the work week on Mondays and the cycle of the week flows from whatever we do at the outset of the week. Thus, for many, Meatless Monday is not just about a day, but can lead to several days or even a complete change of lifestyle. 

While there are certainly some who embrace a vegan or vegetarian diet after starting Meatless Monday, you can make a huge difference in your health and you can improve the planet by embracing a meatless diet just once a week. 

Next Monday the series continues with a review of these health and planetary benefits. For now, join me and give Meatless Monday a try--your body and our planet will be better for it.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

5 Ways to Green Your Summer Wardrobe

Summer is around the corner and like many of you, I am storing away my cool weather clothes and pulling out my lighter, summer looks. Because clothing manufacturing and disposal have big impacts on the environment (for example, clothing manufacturing is responsible for significant water pollution around the world), I thought I would share 5 ways that you can green your summer wardrobe. 

1. Evaluate, repair, and reuse. One of the first things I do at the start of every summer is go through the clothes that I stored away in the fall to evaluate whether the clothing is still usable and to determine what repairs I can make. Fast fashion is a serious social and environmental problem at the moment. In the US and in many other parts of the world, we have access to very cheap clothing. As a result, more and more people are throwing away lightly used clothing and not taking the time to repair or reuse. I have a pair of brown camouflage shorts I have been fixing up since the 1990's. I don't think that people notice (or care about) the patches I have put into them. If you cannot repair a piece, think about how you can reuse them. I take off buttons from old worn shirts and save them and use the shirts as dog or floor washing rags. If you are thoughtful about the materials, you can look at unusable clothing as a resource. Don't forget to evaluate and repair shoes. Well-made shoes can last a lifetime if you take the time to get soles repaired.

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2. Buy quality. Fast fashion is inexpensive because it is made cheaply. We've all had the experience of buying pieces that were inexpensive but made poorly. They don't last. The fabric wears out, buttons or other parts of the garments are attached poorly, and the sewing is imprecise. It is worth spending a few extra dollars for something that will last you a long time.

3. Buy classic looks. Fashion "looks" used to have distinct seasons. The great fashion houses put out a winter, spring, summer, and fall, collections. Now, with fast fashion, we are pretty much post-season. The looks keep changing and trends are hard to keep up with during the year. As a result, it is easy to get out of fashion if you go for too bold of a look. Classic looks last for years. We all like to peacock on occasion, but make sure that your major clothing purchases will last beyond one season.

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4. Find ways to give your clothing a second life. Clothing that is in good shape but that doesn't fit, can have a second life if you are thoughtful about it. It is important to recognize that much donated clothing actually ends up in landfills. Because the cost of clothing is so cheap, the demand for used clothing is not what it once was. Thus, it is worth taking the time to find individuals who could use your clothing. For example, many colleges and universities have offices that take suits and dress clothes for students to use during interviews. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques will take used clothing to give away to those in need.

5. Make do with what you have. Most of us in the United States probably have more summer clothing than we need. I have a whole drawer of t-shirts that I use at the gym or in casual situations that I've had for years. I don't need any more. When I got out my summer box of clothes, I found about a dozen more dressy summer shirts and several pairs of shorts that were still in great shape. While I could purchase some new items to freshen up the look, I really don't need to. I suspect the same is true for most of you reading this. You can help to break the cycle of fast fashion by using what you already have. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Awesome Photos of the Recent Solar Eclipse: Can You Identify the Locations?

I don't know about you, but I love any kind of eclipse. Last week Thursday, there was a partial solar eclipse of the sun right about sunrise in the United States and many people got some awesome photos of it. I thought I would share some amazing open access photos with you. Most of the locations of the photos are pretty easy to identify. However, I am not sure you can get them all! See how you do. The locations are listed in the comments section.

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Sustainability Case Studies 20: Brownfield Redevelopment: Recycling the Urban Environment

The City of Tampa.
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This is the 20th post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the review.

This chapter is called Brownfield Redevelopment:  Recycling the Urban Environment and is by Elizabeth Strom of the University of South Florida. The chapters begins with a discussion about the definition of brownfields and their magnitude in the United States. What is fascinating about brownfields is that they are pieces of property that may be contaminated or that may be perceived to be contaminated. Thus, this situation prevents their redevelopment into other land uses. The properties end up being a blight on the landscape and lower the property values in the surrounding area. As a result, local leaders try to find ways to redevelop the land. There are hundreds of thousands of these properties in the U.S. There is a misperception that these properties exist largely in the old Rust Belt of the United States. While there are many notable sites in this area, such as old factories and steel mills, they can exist anywhere.

The Ulele Bust at Waterworks Park.
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Because of the large costs of environmental remediation, these properties often sit abandoned for years and even decades. A range of public policy has emerged to try to deal with these sites. Strom notes that one of the most important pieces of federal legislation that impacts brownfield was the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that was signed into law in 1980. This law makes any clean up the responsibility of owners and lenders of the property. It gave teeth to the idea that polluters are responsible for the remediation of their abandoned property. Of course, in some cases, the costs for any clean up are out of the range of the property owners. As a result, a series of federal, state, and local programs emerged to help pay for clean up in order to allow more rapid redevelopment of the property.


The chapter highlights that brownfield redevelopment is a two stage process. The first part is largely a political and public policy process that brings together the actors who will engage with the property clean up and redevelopment. These actors can include local, state, and national governmental agencies; the property owners; community groups; real estate developers; and non-profit organizations. Often, the brownfield site may have political significance in that community groups and non-profits may have advocated for clean up and they want a seat at the decision making table to ensure that there is an effective clean up and so that the resultant redevelopment fits the communities expectations.

The chapter includes an interesting case study about a redevelopment of a brownfield site just north of downtown Tampa called Waterworks Park on the Hillsborough River. The site has tremendous historical significance in that it is not only the site of  Native American settlement, but it also was one of the earliest focal points of urbanization as the City of Tampa grew in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, as the city expanded, it lost much of its residential character and the riverfront property went through a cycle of industrialization and abandonment. The case study reviews how the brownfield property was revitalized in partnership with local stakeholders, developers, and government partnerships. The chapter concludes with a broad and useful discussion on lessons learned and challenges and barriers. As Strom notes, brownfield redevelopment is an important activity to try to provide development opportunities while preserving open spaces on the urban fringe.

Click here for more information about the book.

Here are some discussion questions when using this chapter for a unit on environmental law within the realm of sustainable development. 

1. What is a brownfield and what examples of brownfields can you identify in your community?

2. Why do you think there are so many brownfields in the United States?

3. What is the role of the EPA in brownfield redevelopment?

4. Why are community groups an important stakeholder in brownfield redevelopment?

5. What kinds of professions are associated with brownfield redevelopment?

6. Why was the name "Ulele" important in the Waterworks Park case study?

7. How was the Waterworks Park redevelopment funded?

8. Sometimes, brownfield redevelopment can be political charged. Why do you think that is?

Previous Entries in This Series

Friday, June 11, 2021

Keystone XL Pipeline Project Ends

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There were reports this week that the Keystone XL Pipeline project is dead. The developer of the project finally took the project off life support after President Biden cancelled the project's permit. 

This project has been deeply controversial for a number of reasons. First of all, the pipeline would carry oil produced in Canada in tar sands. The process of removing the oil from the sand uses quite a bit of energy and leaves problematic waste behind. Plus, the tar sands are strip mined which means that ecosystems are destroyed in the mining process. The pipeline would have brought the crude oil removed from the sand to refineries in the US where it could be made into other products like gasoline.

Another reason that the project was controversial is that the pipeline came near Native American reservations. Many groups in the US protested the presence of the pipeline in these and other areas because of the risk of leaks and environmental damage.

Some believe that the cancellation of the project could be a temporary problem. They suggest that a new president may approve the pipeline. We all know that when the presidency changes parties, there are often wild shifts in environmental policy. We'll see. But for now, it appears that the controversial project is no more.

If you use the search engine function on this blog, you'll find many more pieces about the pipeline project

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Grand Portage National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota. This is not one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the former president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

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Previous On the Brink posts on the U.S. National Monuments

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Cascade Siskiyou National Monument
Castillo de San Marco National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument
Castle Mountains National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument
César E. Chávez National Monument
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Devils Postpile National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument
El Malpais National Monument
El Morro National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort McHenry National Monument
Fort Monroe National Monument
Fort Ord National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Fort Stanwix National Monument
Fort Union National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Freedom Riders National Monument
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
George Washington Carver National Monument
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gold Butte National Monument
Governors Island National Monument

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Slow Food International Quiz

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Since it is Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer vegetable gardening season in the upper Midwest, I thought it would be fun to have a quiz about food--more specifically about Slow Food International. Many of you may have heard about the concept of slow food, but you may not know that the group, Slow Food International, is largely responsible for bringing the idea to mainstream culture around the world. Here are 10 questions to check your knowledge about Slow Food International. Answer to the quiz are in the comments. Also, check out links to other On the Brink quizzes at the end of the post.

1. Slow food began in one of the world's great food cities. Name the city.

2. The motivation for the organization emerged after protests in the city referenced above. The protests were around the planned opening of a fast food restaurant near an important landmark in the city. Name the restaurant chain and the landmark.

3. In what year did the protests noted in 1 above occur?

4. When the organization formed, an animal was selected to be part of the organization's logo. Name the animal.

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5. One of the critiques of the slow food movement is that it does not explicitly embrace a specific type of farming or a specific type of diet. Name the farming practice and the diet.

6. An outgrowth of Slow Food International is Terra Madre. What is the focus of Terra Madre?

7. In a very short time, Slow Food International created chapters all over the world. Approximately how many chapters are there?

8. Slow food focuses on local food prepared well, clean food production that doesn't damage the environment, and fair prices and accessibility of food. This philosophy comes into direct conflict with what type of food production?

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9. Anyone can start a local Slow Food International chapter if you have ideas around how to protect or promote your local food culture. What name is given to a local Slow Food chapter?

10. One of the newer initiatives of Slow Food International is Disco Soup day. What is the educational theme of this event?


Check out these previous On the Brink quizzes!

Appalachian Trail Quiz
Robert Bullard Quiz
James Lovelock Quiz
Gifford Pinchot Quiz
John Muir Quiz
John Muir Quiz Part 2
Aldo Leopold Quiz
Rachel Carson Quiz
Bill McKibben Quiz
Teddy Roosevelt Quiz
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Quiz
Zora Neale Hurston Quiz
New York City National Cave and Karst Research Institute Quiz
New York City National Cave and Karst Research Institute Quiz Answers Revealed (note that answers reflect spring of 2015)
Introduction to Sustainability Quiz
U.S. Renewable Energy Quiz
Wangari Maathai Quiz
Black Friday Consumption Quiz
Green Building Quiz
Edward Abbey Quiz
Earth Day Quiz
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Quiz

Friday, May 28, 2021

Sustainability Case Studies 19: Environmental Law

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This is the 19th post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the review.

This chapter is called Environmental Law and is by Yumiko Nakanishi of Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. The chapter begins with a background around environmental law within the confines of sustainability--particularly sustainable development. As the author points out in the introductory paragraph, there are questions as to whether or not sustainable development can be considered a legal principle. 


Regardless, the chapter does review some of the main international agreements and accords that address sustainable development such as Our Common Future, the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, the UN Millennium Development Goals, the outcome from the Rio+20 meeting in 2012--The Future We Want, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These agreements are largely considered soft law. For the most part, they do not have binding requirements. As a result, the ability to fulfill the intent of the agreements varies considerable from country to country.

The article points out, however, that these international agreements have led to the development of regional, national, and local soft and hard laws. For example, Article 20a of the German Constitution brings in the idea of sustainable development. The European Union took a more specific approach in adopting a series of environmental policy guidelines and priorities. However, these have not been widely tested in courts and it is unclear if they will be binding.

The chapter concludes with a discussion of new trends in environmental law within the context of sustainable development. New agreements between nations are now specifically addressing sustainability. For example the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement with nations in much of the Pacific rim, specifically recognizes sustainable development in several ways including issues of biodiversity and education of policy. A trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, has a whole chapter on sustainable development. Thus, there are emerging international binding agreements on sustainable development within the realm of trade agreements outside of the realm of the United Nations.

The article takes a very specific look within one aspect of environment law--sustainable development--to see how it is applied within international agreements. As the author points out, much of the legal framework around sustainable development falls within the realm of soft law. However, there are emerging trends that better codify how nations navigate sustainable development policy.

Click here for more information about the book.

Here are some discussion questions when using this chapter for a unit on environmental law within the realm of sustainable development. These were suggested by the author within the chapter.

1. How is sustainable development defined?

2. From where does the concept of sustainable development emerge?

3. How has the concept of sustainable development developed?

4. What is the legal character of sustainable development?

5. How is sustainable development expressed in economic, social, and environmental issues?

6. How is sustainable development expressed at international, regional, and national levels?

7. What is the principle of environmental integration in EU law?

8. How is sustainable development expressed in free-trade agreements?

Previous Entries in This Series


Thursday, May 27, 2021

5 Ways to Green Your Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day is considered the official start of the summer seasons here in the United States. Here are 5 ways you can green your Memorial Day weekend.

1. Learn how make a great vegan barbecue. There are lots of wonderful ways to make veggies the star of a cookout. I am particularly fond of grilled corn, eggplant, and tomato and zucchini skewers. If you want to get really showy, get out the paella pan and make a vegan paella using veggie sausages and lots of extra vegetables. To see how to make a paella on the grill check out the video linked here.

2. Visit a national park or monument. We have 63 national parks and 129 national monuments in the United States. Why not take a weekend trip to visit one of them?

3. Reset your water heater and air conditioner. Now that the summer is looming, many of us are turning to air conditioning to beat the heat in our homes. Why not take a moment to take stock of how they are set? Most of us like warm or hot showers in the winter to warm up, but we don't need that heat in the summer. Lower the setting of your hot water heater to save energy and consider setting timers on your air conditioner and water heater so that they are in use only when needed.

4. Take a trash hike. Many of us go out hiking during this weekend. Take along a garbage bag and pick up some trash along the way. You'll get extra exercise benefits from all the bending and squatting.

5. Sequester some carbon. If you have the space, plant a tree. If not, consider purchasing some carbon credits for yourself or a loved one. There are many companies out there working on amazing carbon sequestration projects. Terrapass is and example of one company where you can purchase individual carbon credits. 

If you have any other ideas for greening Memorial Day, leave them in the comments. The most important thing is to have fun and to take a moment to honor those who have lost their lives in service to our country.