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Volume [field_article_intvolume_value], Issue [field_article_intissue_value] — April 2019


Time for a New Age of Enlightenment for U.S. Environmental Law and Policy: Where Do We Go From Here?

by Barry E. Hill

The issue of environmental injustice has again come into sharp focus in the wake of the predominantly African-American community in Flint, Michigan, being exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water. To secure environmental justice for all individuals and communities, living in a clean, safe, and healthy environment in America should be considered a human right enforced by the adoption of an environmental rights amendment in the bill of rights sections of every state constitution and the federal Constitution. Such constitutional protections would significantly help individuals and communities to defend their human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, clean air, clean land, and a stable climate—and would provide new legal mechanisms for the protection of those rights.

Is Meat the New Tobacco? Regulating Food Demand in the Age of Climate Change

by Lingxi Chenyang

Switching from a meat-heavy to a plant-based diet is one of the highest-impact lifestyle changes for climate mitigation and adaptation. However, conventional demand-side energy policy has focused on increasing consumption of efficient machines and fuels. Regulating food demand has key advantages. First, food consumption is biologically constrained, thus switching to more efficient foods avoids unintended consequences of switching to more efficient machines, like higher overall energy consumption. Second, food consumption, like smoking, is primed for normshifting because it occurs in socially conspicuous environments. Indeed, while place-based bans and information regulation were essential in lowering the prevalence of smoking, the same strategies may be even more effective in reducing meat demand. Several policy reforms can be implemented at the federal level, from reform of food marketing schemes to publicly subsidized meal programs.


Dirty Money and Wildlife Trafficking: Using the Money Laundering Control Act to Prosecute Illegal Wildlife Trade

by Vanessa Dick

The global community is awakening to the extent and sophistication of the illegal wildlife trade. With an estimated annual value of $5 billion to $23 billion, the seriousness of the problem increases when calculated with other illicit natural resource trade in timber and fish and totals more than $200 billion annually, ranking second only to international drug trafficking. The trade’s profitability depends on the existence of powerful transnational criminal networks connecting the supply, often in Southeast Asia and Africa, with consumer demand, largely in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Experts agree that efforts to stop wildlife trafficking must include disruption of the opaque global financial flows that propel and reward the traders. Existing money laundering statutes could serve as this disruption, but they are historically underutilized. This Comment explains the existing legal framework in the United States, one of the world's largest endmarkets for illegal wildlife traffickers, for integrating money laundering statutes into international wildlife trafficking prosecutions. It also unpacks the statutory and political weaknesses that are limiting this strategy’s effectiveness. 

Changing the National Flood Insurance Program for a Changing Climate

by Dena Adler, Michael Burger, Rob Moore, and Joel Scata

Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968 to reduce flood damages nationwide and ease the federal government’s financial burden for providing disaster recovery. To achieve this goal, the program was designed to perform three primary functions: (1) provide federally backed insurance to property owners and renters; (2) establish minimum requirements for building, land use, and floodplain management practices that local communities must adopt in order for their residents to be eligible to purchase NFIP insurance coverage; and (3) map high flood-risk areas that inform local land use decisions as well as the pricing of flood insurance premiums. Theoretically, the NFIP should have deterred development in flood-prone areas, ensured that any new development in the floodplain was designed to minimize the risk of flood damage, and reduced federal expenditures on disaster recovery costs. In practice, the rising debts of the program and growing severity and frequency of flood disasters imply the opposite is true. One significant factor contributing to this shortcoming is that the NFIP is predicated on the assumption that flood risks are static and change little over time. Climate change is proving that assumption to be extremely dangerous and costly. This Comment will assess the current state of the NFIP and the threats to it from climate change. In addition, it explores several strategies to change the NFIP for a changing climate.


Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Environmental Decisionmaking

by Greta Swanson, Minnie Degawan, Kathy Hodgson-Smith, and Anthony Moffa

Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is defined as a deep understanding of the environment developed by local communities and indigenous peoples over generations. In the United States, Canada, and around the world, indigenous peoples are increasingly advocating for incorporation of TEK into a range of environmental decisionmaking contexts, including natural resource and wildlife management, pollution standards, environmental and social planning, environmental impact assessment, and adaptation to climate change. On October 31, 2018, ELI hosted an expert panel on TEK, co-sponsored by the National Native American Bar Association and the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. The panel discussed the challenges that  indigenous peoples face in defending the legitimacy of, and intellectual property in, TEK; how policymakers can modify existing laws and regulations to better incorporate TEK; and the potential for TEK to meet today’s most pressing environmental challenges. This Article presents a transcript of the discussion, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.