January 01, 2015

Literary Resources

JoAnne L. Dunec


International Environmental Law: The Practitioner’s Guide to the Laws of the Planet

Roger R. Martella, Jr. and J. Brett Grosko, eds.

ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, 2014

“Increasingly, every environmental lawyer is becoming an international lawyer,” note the editors in the Introduction to International Environmental Law. They observe,

Recent developments . . . have thrust international environmental law issues from strictly a foreign arena onto the front doorstep of attorneys practicing environmental law from regional cities to small manufacturing towns. The rapid globalization of developing world economies, the increasingly international nature of energy markets, and growing concern over global environmental challenges such as climate change are driving fundamental changes to the practice of environmental law. Companies . . . are almost necessarily multinational by nature and are confronting a rapidly emerging and confusing regime of international environmental laws, here, there and everywhere in between. . . . While some nations have been lax in developing and enforcing environmental law regimes so far, the trends are all toward more rigorous requirements being implemented. . . . In upcoming years, multinational companies are likely to face more rapidly developing, rigid, complex, and confusing environmental requirements abroad than they do in the United States and the European Union. It will be critical for attorneys to understand not only the substance of the laws, but also the context in which international environmental law problems uniquely must be addressed.

International Environmental Law is intended to be a “practitioner-oriented toolkit for understanding comparative and international environmental law issues.” Fifty-eight authors from 26 countries “contributed to this unprecedented effort” encompassing 1,000 pages. The book is comprised of four parts. Part I (Approaching International Regimes) provides an overview and “framework for approaching international environmental law.” The Part I chapters address the globalization of environmental law, the relationship between domestic and international environmental law, how to approach the issues, and the top ten trends in international environmental law.

The chapters of Part II address specific topics in international environmental law, including air and climate change; water; the handing, treatment, transportation, and disposal of hazardous materials; waste and site remediation; emergency response; natural resource management, protection, and damages; protected species, environmental review and decision making; transboundary pollution; and civil and criminal enforcement and penalties.

Part III provides an international environmental law digest, which uses the topics described in Part II as a template for addressing the “environmental and natural resource regimes in 26 key markets.” As described in the introduction,

These chapters cover the top fifteen nations in terms of gross domestic product, including Brazil, Russia, India, and China. They also include key developing and developed nations such as Turkey, Ukraine, Argentina, Israel, and the Netherlands. Part III also describes the trends and legal systems in place in four crucial regions: North America (especially NAFTA-inspired institutions); South and Central America; the EU (two separate chapters on institutions and trends, respectively); and the Arctic. The EU has become a key driving force in the development of environmental law globally through its Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) directives governing chemical and electronic waste management, respectively. The Arctic has, for its part, become increasingly important as the reduction in sea ice extent due to climate change has led to greater interest in the region for shipping, conservation, and resource extraction purposes.

The book concludes with Part IV (Global and Cross-Border Issues) comprised of three chapters that address mechanisms for global agreements, key environmental law treaties and agreements, and the role of international standards.

Empty Hands, Open Arms: The Race to Save Bonobos in the Congo and Make Conservation Go Viral

Deni Béchard

Milkweed Editions, 2013

I will take with me the emptiness of my hands What you do not have you find everywhere –W. S. Merwin

Bonobos are the last of the great apes to be discovered, and as noted by the author, like chimpanzees, “have more than 98.6 percent of [their] DNA in common with humans.” According to the author, their “resemblance to chimps and their home far from the coast, within one of the Congo’s most daunting landscapes,” the “heart of the Congo basin” kept “bonobos from being recognized as a distinct species until the twentieth century.”

One bonobo, Kanzi, whose mother was being studied for her ability to communicate to humans through lexigrams displayed on a computer keyboard, became a celebrity when the researcher, primatologist Frans de Waal, realized that Kanzi had also learned the lexigrams and had “been learning English naturally, the way human children do, just by ‘being exposed to it.’” Kanzi “also learned to make stone tools, build fires, and cook.”

Bonobos in the wild are under constant threat. As described by the author, bonobos are “already on the verge of extinction, their habitat only in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo], to the south of the Congo River’s curve, in an area where the government’s influence barely reached.” The Congo, devastated by war, but “with increased stability, its massive forest and mineral wealth were again vulnerable to large-scale exploitation” and wildlife, including bonobos, continue to be hunted for consumption or sold as bush meat.

One organization, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) is “fostering a surprising number of conservations areas in spite of its small size and limited funding.” As explained to the author by BCI’s president, Sally Jewell Coxe, BCI took a new approach to conservation,

[S]he described how she and a few others started the organization in 1998, in the spirit of bonobo cohesiveness, its goal to build coalitions so as to use resources more sustainably. Unlike national parks, the reserves contained villages whose occupants were trained to manage and protect the natural resources and wildlife. BCI’s model was inclusive, she said, inviting people in rainforest villages to participate and taking into account their histories, cultures, and needs in order to foster grassroots conservation movements.

BCI’s methods have proven successful, though challenges remain. In the epilogue, the author summarizes their achievements:

[T]he reserves and numerous unofficial community-protected areas that, though not recognized nationally, provide safe passage for endangered species; and the network of Congolese trained in conservation, and ready to be mobilized for new projects. A Bonobo Peace Forest, spanning tens of thousands of square miles, would be no small achievement in a time of accelerating climate change, and yet as [two communities,] Kokolopori and Sankuru[,] have shown, it is clearly attainable through partnerships between conservationists and local people. The Congolese, both those involved in conservation and at the national level and those living in the rainforests, are unquestionably motivated to protect their natural heritage, and if the various conservation groups can put aside their differences and collaborate, the Bonobo Peace Forest could become a reality within this decade.

JoAnne L. Dunec

JoAnne L. Dunec is a real estate and land use transactional attorney who is a shareholder in Miller Starr Regalia’s Walnut Creek office.