Talks over the last 10 days — at the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Missouri at Kansas City and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor – have been notable for the discussion they provoked. And for a circle that, in my mind, was drawn.
As to that circle, I recalled that, as a first-year college student many decades back, I read an article by University of Michigan Law Professor Joseph Sax on the public trust doctrine.1The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention, 68 MICH.L. REV. 471 (1970).
Professor Sax’s insight profoundly influenced my view of the law, or at least its potential. In brief, it is that the public has the legal right to demand of our government that it secure the protection of vital natural resources for the sustainable and perpetual use (and enjoyment) of current and future generations.
Yesterday, while standing in the cathedral-like Hutchins Hall Courtyard at the University of Michigan School of Law, talking with Environmental Law Society students, I imagined that Professor Sax, were he alive still, would have joined our not-so-little group. And that, after due consideration, he too would have signed our Petition to the President to impose a rising fee on oil, gas, and coal greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed, whether they were cognizant of it or not, I think it was in that same public-minded spirit that, on Sept. 23, Citizen’s Climate Lobby activists turned out for my talk in the University of Colorado Boulder School of Law, and that, on Sept. 27, the UMKC Women in Science and others – including three brilliant and committed law professors – gathered with me as the sun set behind Durwood Soccer Stadium.
And as for the discussion, I can note here, briefly, that people have asked me the following:
1. How is it possible, if Democrats control both houses of Congress, that the President is not yet able to get his budget package passed, including its important climate provisions?
2. Even if President Biden, by rule pursuant to existing law, were to secure a rising carbon fee to phase out oil, gas and coal emissions, couldn’t that be undone by a subsequent President – one bent on destruction and not preservation?
Good questions. I will address at least one of them in this space tomorrow.
- 1The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention, 68 MICH.L. REV. 471 (1970).