Natural Resources

Fall 2011 Natural Resources Law Class at UB

To Occupy with Cleanliness? October 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemclinden @ 9:38 pm

Occupy Wall Street has been taking up most of Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park for nearly one calendar month now.  Similar protests spread around the world, and in some cities this weekend, regulations seemed to conflict with what protesters believed was their right to freely assemble.  A potential crisis was averted on Friday morning, when the owners of the park delayed a scheduled evacuation and cleaning.  In other locations like Denver, at least some of the protesters were evicted this weekend, in part due to maintenance issues arising from continuous occupation.

It had also seemed that Occupy Buffalo was going to have difficulty staying in the park through Saturday, October 15th (dubbed a Day of Action for Occupiers around the world) for conflict with a diabetes walk down the street at Coca-Cola Field, but their permit was extended.

Some have questioned what it means now for the 20th century trend of publicly-accessible privately-owned parks like Zuccotti.  Its owners, real estate company Brookfield, had intended to have the grounds power-washed, but called off the plans about 8 hours in advance “for a short period of time” at the request of “a number of local political leaders.” Lower Manhattan is not exactly a natural resource in the way that half of Wyoming is, but New York City’s city- and state-owned parks share similar property usage questions as do federal parks.  Privately-owned public parks challenge how municipalities can regulate, and what kind of easements are granted or can be revoked for usage when they seem “out of hand” to some political bodies. A control on certain kinds of speech is not a state action, but in many areas where public access is relatively open, like colleges’ academic malls, a wide degree of freedom to access and use has been afforded to students and others. See generally Roberts v. Haragan 2004 WL 2203130 (N.D. Tex. 2004), wherein a law student was seeking to protest in his desired location at Texas Tech, a public university.

In a less contentious and more ecologically-conscious realm, some more scientific blogs and sanitation-related sites have looked at the greener efforts of and complications to come about from Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Buffalo seems to be conscious of efforts to keep the park clean and maintain – in one way – a low profile down at Niagara Square, surmising from Facebook posts urging participants to  not litter.  Occupy Wall Street has a “working sanitation group” that has been ensuring regular cleanup, operating a greywater system to water some of the foliage, thus quelling some of the concerns of Brookfield and Mayor Bloomberg.  With no end to the “Occupy” movement in sight and yet the potential for a sudden change at any administrative decision, legal thinkers, as well as the likes of civil engineers, and perhaps judges will be considering new usage questions.


Is paperless reading actually environmentally-friendly? October 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemclinden @ 9:11 pm

With the falling price of e-readers and the rise of e-books in all forms, I’ve had a few conversations lately about whether or not law students would be carrying weighty federal regulations at this time next year or the year after. I get as much use out of my Kindle as I can in reading for pleasure, and I’ve started following news on a tablet this year. It’s a common turn-of-phrase to say “save a tree” when forgoing unnecessary use of paper, but are we actually saving anything?

Each extra device we carry around is another that is probably manufactured in East Asia from plastics that have to be made from petroleum, and increasing attention is being paid to the mining of the rare earth metals from regions like the Congo used in computing devices’ electrical components.  Meanwhile, the paper business is inherently somewhat sustainable, whether or not they hold a conscious concern for the environment: paper farms, in the least, must replant and rotate their timber if they hope to be in business after too many years. Much of the south and southeast US have been growing pines for several generations now, and if newspapers continue sliding out of circulation while development in parts of the country booms, one would have to wonder how long the area will stay populated with trees.

Paper is heavy, so the production and delivery of each sheet we print on one time has a measurable carbon footprint, but then again, every week or two an e-reader needs a recharge consumes electricity, which is still mostly reliant on the consumption of fossil fuels. And then we tend to discard our devices after a few years for newer models, putting us into the e-waste phase of concern, and one blogger points out that the statutory categorization of tablets and e-readers in many jurisdictions is still questionable, even if municipalities were to be successful in getting their residents to return all e-waste properly.

Perhaps used books are, at the moment, the best way to minimize further consumption of resources.