Law, science and environmental justice in the curriculum
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Law, science and environmental justice in the curriculum

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Slides for the presentation by Sharron McEldowney (University of Westminster) at UKCLE's Environmental justice in legal education event

Slides for the presentation by Sharron McEldowney (University of Westminster) at UKCLE's Environmental justice in legal education event

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Law, science and environmental justice in the curriculum Law, science and environmental justice in the curriculum Presentation Transcript

  • Law, Science and Environmental Justice in the Curriculum Sharron McEldowney School of Life Sciences University of Westminster
  • Introduction
    • Science is central to describing and understanding of our environment
    • It plays a pivotal part in developing and applying techniques to monitor, prevent and remediate harm from anthropogenic activities
    • Today’s environmental agenda is shaped by an essential collaboration between scientific and non-scientific disciplines including law
    • A real and working partnership between disparate disciplines is a prerequisite to effective environmental protection
    • The movement of EU and UK environmental law towards proactive environmental management is intimately linked to environmental justice
    • Reactive techniques inevitably fail to protect both people and the environment
    • The application of precaution and sustainable development is central to the protection of environmental rights and require substantial scientific input
    • Law students should be able to set the context of environmental law within all the disciplines that contribute to its development, implementation and enforcement
  • Bringing law and science to the classroom
    • There are a number of ways that law students can be introduced to science as a fundamental part of environmental law and regulation
    • Probably the most effective is a case-study approach related to specific environmental problems
    • This should not be limited to one issue but extend across a number of different topics
  • Possible Case-studies
      • A study on the regulation of Genetically Modified Micro-organisms
      • A study on the Environment Agency’s control of point source pollution
      • Cambridge Water
      • A study of the significance of the Water Framework Directive
      • REACH and chemical regulation
      • Habitat conservation and climate change
    • Using a variety of case-studies has several advantages:
      • It provides students with an introduction to scientific terms and acronyms across a range of scientific disciplines and an insight into how scientists think
      • Allows students to compare legal and scientific competences and proof in a number of different examples
      • Allows students to examine key concepts in science that have particular significance for environmental law
      • Allows the examination of how law and science interact in ‘real world’ situations
      • Provides the usual advantages of case-studies in legal education
  • Case study examples
    • A study of Genetically Modified Organisms
    • Consideration could be given to
      • Scientific and legal definitions of genetically modified organisms
      • History of GM in UK and Europe, pressure groups and the media
      • Current EU and UK regulation
      • Role of scientific advisory panels
      • The process of scientific risk assessment through consideration of specific GM examples e.g. herbicide resistance crops, BT crops, and the concept of scientific uncertainty
      • Regulatory responses to new technological developments
    • A study of the Environment Agency’s control of point source pollution
      • Science involved in setting environmental quality standards and discharge standards
      • Monitoring discharges and water quality i.e. collecting scientific data, and establishing pollution sources
      • Need for ‘sound science’ and what this means
      • Water Framework Directive
      • Prosecution policy and the use of fines for deterrence
      • The recent MacRory reforms and their implication for the EA’s prosecution policy
  • Conclusion
    • It is important that students understand the framework and a professional context for their future careers and be able to work effectively with many different specialists
    • It is critical that the next generation of environmental lawyers feels at ease working with scientists so that environmental justice is embedded in environmental protection
    • Sensitive use of case-studies in legal education should help achieve this goal.