March 8, 2012
Clara Thompson Hall
The topic sounds overwhelming, but it’s really just about one idea: We are all the center of our own universe and yet we need to work together to secure a sustainable future. The talk is meant to address the tension between individual rights (having things “our own way”) and the public interest (advancing values that serve the broader community).
The United States has moved from an early period where “unite or die” was a founding principle, through a civil war that tested our resolve to remain united, through two world wars where we sacrificed to protect our common enterprise and – more recently – to the “me generation” and today’s calls to “win freedom” and “fully embrace” the “moral truth” that we can all do exactly as we please. The individual is celebrated. We file “ireports;” we “tweet” about what we had for breakfast; and we invite virtual “facebook friends” to look through the window of our home pages where we “share” what we “like,” “digg” or otherwise “pref.” At the same time, the public cause is pilloried. Science demonstrating that human activity can harm the environment is called mythology, and efforts to construct rules to minimize that harm are called “alarmist” moves by social “stormtroopers.” Government is no longer seen (at least by some) as the public’s servant, but instead portrayed (again, by some) as a public enemy.
Under these circumstances, how do we cooperate as a species to make rules that will help us survive as a species? That has become the central dilemma of environmental law and policy – and it is the central topic of Professor Eric Dannenmaier’s Convocation talk.
Since Professor Dannenmaier was awarded his degree from Drury in Biology and Political Science (with an emphasis in environmental studies) he has received graduate degrees in law from Oxford, Columbia, and Boston Universities. He practiced law in Boston and Washington, DC; directed the Environmental Law Program of the US Agency for International Development; and directed the Institute for Environmental Law and Policy at Tulane University in New Orleans. He has worked with governments, international agencies, and citizen’s groups in over 25 countries on the reform of environmental and natural resources law. His projects have included mining reform in Panama, environmental security in Nepal and Uganda, environmental democracy in Russia and Cuba, water rights in Eritrea, and coastal development in the Dominican Republic. He has taught courses and seminars in sustainable development in cities including Bangkok, Cairo, Geneva, and Santiago de Chile, and he has facilitated multilateral negotiations on environmental issues in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. He has now “settled down” back in the Midwest as a Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He teaches and writes about environmental rights, deliberative democracy, and natural resource conservation in national and international contexts.