Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, especially to my students in the midst of preparing for the upcoming final exams. Among the things that I am particularly grateful for this year is the work of my book co-authors who have helped push our comparative/global environmental law casebook within sight of completion. The book will be out next year and will offer law teachers, students, and practitioners with new materials, understandings, and approaches to a relatively new perspective on environmental law.
In the meantime, here is something else that I have also been working on — a draft chapter on China’s Cancer Villages, by myself and two of my former students, Quoc Nguyen and Linda Tsang. The chapter describes cancer cluster phenomena that have emerged all over China in the last 10-15 years: Tseming Yang, Quoc Nguyen, and Linda Tsang, China’s Cancer Villages (November 2, 2018). Forthcoming, The Cambridge Handbook on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development, eds. Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez and Sara Seck. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3277638
I couldn’t resist sharing this. [There is an environmental angle to this – wait for it.] While exploring the Freedom Trail and taking in the Boston sights, we came across a short story dispenser at the Prudential Center shopping mall.
What a neat idea, we all thought. I picked a 1 minute story, my wife Tinling a 3 minute one, and my daughter Zoe got a 5 minute story! Turns out that the quality of the story was not particularly great – mine was mostly a stream of consciousness piece. But hey – I am not casting aspersions. Producing good writing is hard, as I know well myself.
However, later, it occurred to me that the placement of this dispenser was probably the flaw in the entire “short story dispenser” concept [not the quality of the writing]. Rather than placing the dispenser in a busy shopping mall passageway, the dispenser should have been placed in a bathroom stall. Use it there to provide some reading distraction when people are doing their business! Just as in the adage that everything tastes better when one is hungry, this could even give mediocre authors an audience boost when bored minds turn to their work. And if the logical next step is taken, the short story dispenser concept could be turned from a win-win into a win-win-win. Immediate recycling or re-use of the short story for other purposes would create the trifecta of wins – for bathroom user, author, and environment! Score one for the environment!
It’s been hot but exciting to be in the heart of Southeast Asia. After a day’s worth of lectures on business organizations for the “Business and the Environment,” the students have been been exploring Singapore. On Tuesday, our post-class excursion was to check out the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant – the Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice, a Hainan chicken rice Hawker stand at 335 Smith Street. We ended up at the newer, air-conditioned restaurant, where the price was less than $3 USD for the signature chicken rice meal. My personal review . . . Not bad, but I am not sure that the meal was Michelin-star-worthy. But either way, it was an interesting experience.
Buffy, Grape, and Opera
Here is a picture of my new Silicon Valley status symbols. (“New” only because I didn’t know previously that they were status symbols!) Now, I will no longer need to get a Tesla. [See this story for context: https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/The-Silicon-Valley-elite-s-latest-status-symbol-12723431.php.
My good friend Professor Gil Kujovich passed away on December 14. He was a long-time beloved teacher at Vermont Law School who was one of the kindest and smartest person I met during my time teaching there.
Gil served in the Vietnam War and then attended Harvard Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then went on to clerk for Judge Shirley Hufstedler of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justices Potter Stewart and Byron White of the U.S. Supreme Court. He then served in various positions in the Carter Administration, including as counsel to the White House Intelligence Oversight Board from 1979 to 1980 and then as assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Education. He joined the Vermont Law School faculty in 1981. During the consideration of civil union (same-sex marriage) legislation by the Vermont Legislature in the early 2000s, he testified numerous times before the House and Senate Judiciary committees.
Gil was deeply committed to the ideals of justice and racial equality and carried out those values by mentoring many of Vermont Law School’s students of color, including Shirley Jefferson who went on to become Vermont Law School’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Diversity. Vermont Law School carried a tribute that provides the remembrances of many students and colleagues. His kindness both as a teacher and colleague and his generosity of spirit left a lasting impression on all he came into contact with, especially myself. Both I and my wife Tinling will miss him dearly. (The picture of is of me with Gil and his wife Joni in 2003 or thereabouts.)
On Wednesday, the Board of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District voted to grant a 36 acre cultural conservation easement at the top of Mount Umunuhm to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. [Also San Jose Mercury News reporting.] The decision essentially confers rights to carry out tribal ceremonies and other cultural activities, including building a garden, in the area where there is also now a public park. (Mount Umunhum is a new regional park with gorgeous views of the South Bay area that just opened a few months ago. Since it is only a half an hour away from my home, a hike there has been on my to-do list.) According to the Open Space District, “Mount Umunhum is a sacred site to the Amah Mutsun people and is central to their creation story.”
While the decision has attracted some controversy, it seems to me to be a generous and worthy gesture of a public agency to help this tribe preserve its cultural heritage. It is also designed to right some of the historical injustices that Native Americans have suffered, especially displacement from their ancestral lands. For non-Native Americans, this step helps to recognize the important role that Indian Tribes have played in this country’s history and their continuing inextricable importance to our nation’s broader culture.
Given that I have never heard of a government agency doing anything like this before, this step may set an important precedent for other local and state government agencies in their interactions with Native groups.
Interestingly, public recognition of this tribe’s ancestral connection to these lands also touches my own institution, Santa Clara University. According to the Mercury News, “the Amah Mutsun is made up of about 600 descendants of Ohlones, who once inhabited the area south of San Jose, and now largely live in Central Valley towns.” The Ohlone Indians make up the Native American community that Mission Santa Clara Mission de Assis, founded by Father Junipero Serra, originally was designed to serve and to convert to Christianity. That mission still stands in the heart of the Santa Clara University campus and was the origin of the present-day university. Yet, unlike the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, I am not aware of Santa Clara University formally recognizing the Ohlone Indians’ contributions to and past relationship with the University (beyond references in the University history). (It happens to be an issue that I am asked about surprisingly frequently by visitors.)
Here’s a thoughtful op-ed piece by my colleague Margaret Russell on the pending Supreme Court case regarding a Colorado baker’s violation of the state’s public accommodation anti-discrimination laws in refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple’s due to his religious beliefs: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/12/01/wedding-cake-debate-serving-public