Law profs blog for the environment
Environmental law professors at UCLA and UC Berkeley team up to launch "Legal Planet" blog.
By Alison Hewitt
Originally published in UCLA Today
When the directors of UCLA and UC Berkeley's environmental law centers recently found themselves looking for an intelligent, neutral round-up of the day's big eco news, they discovered it didn’t exist. So they created one.
Legal Planet, a collaborative blog by professors at both law schools, draws on the faculty's expertise to debunk global-warming skeptics, analyze new climate policies developed by President Obama's administration, and add academic insight and advice to a range of environmental topics, said Professor Ann Carlson, co-founder of the site and the faculty director of the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment at the UCLA School of Law.
"We saw that — while there are people who write about environmental law from a constitutional perspective, or scientists who blog about the climate — there was nothing comprehensive, consistent and updated daily," Carlson said.
She and her colleague, Professor Dan Farber from UC Berkeley, changed that.
The blog went live in early March and is earning notice and links from other netizens, ranging from UCLA Law Professor and established blogger Eugene Volokh, to the Wall Street Journal's environment and business blog.
The dozen members of the Legal Planet writing team have a broad audience in mind, including policymakers, journalists, other academics, environmental lawyers and the general public.
"Definitely, we hope some of our ideas will be noticed by policymakers," said Professor Sean Hecht, one of the bloggers and executive director of the UCLA Environmental Law Center. "But overall, I think of our readers as regular people interested in the environment. It's a terrific opportunity for us to share our knowledge outside of academia."
And the bloggers have found they have a lot to say, said Professor Cara Horowitz, director of UCLA's Emmett Center.
"We're all environmental policy wonks," she said. "And the nice thing about a blog is you're free to post about what interests you. In professional, academic writing, one might feel restrained to write only about things that you've researched in great depth. Now, if there's something you learn about in the media, or that you have a considered opinion on, you can explore that."
Horowitz wondered in one of her posts, "Earth, we're just not that into you," whether a new name for "global warming," such as "carbon pollution," might push the issue higher on Americans' radar. She also wrote a critique about U.S. automakers who are asking for bailout money with one hand, while paying lawyers to fight clean-car regulations with the other hand. Hecht has taken columnist George Will to task for a "misguided climate op-ed" and, like several of his co-bloggers, fretted that the climate is changing faster than anyone predicted.
Horowitz, Hecht and Carlson all said climate change posts are their focus.
"It's what I think about all the time," Carlson said. "It's not only the most pressing issue we face right now, but there's also something new happening with it all the time — new legislation, new policies."
Carlson takes particular interest in keeping up with the news on climate change: She is also part of a National Academy of Sciences panel making recommendations to Congress on how to reduce greenhouse gases. She has blogged about her cynicism that climate change can be tackled without government regulation in her post, "Save us from ourselves," and raised the spooky possibility that geo-engineering — the chemical alteration of the climate — may be inevitable.
"Some of the thinking is pretty pessimistic about our ability to solve climate change and cut greenhouse gases through individual change and public policies," Carlson said. "So people are looking seriously at doing it by manipulating the climate, which is a pretty scary thought."
Published: Monday, May 04, 2009