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International Environmental Law Clinic

Student Perspectives

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Lauren Godshall (’03)

My participation in the International Environmental Law Clinic was an extremely important part of my third year of Law School in that I was able to revive and greatly advance several strands of research I had begun in earlier courses and internships, and unite them in a single research paper that I hope will now be used by other activists and researchers in the field.

For my project, I chose to develop a comparative study on the international regulation of the use of antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the agricultural industry. This turned out to be an exciting project because national and international policy in these areas was in constant flux and even became considered a political stake in the controversy surrounding the E.U.’s involvement in the U.S.-Iraq conflict. Because of the dual aims of the project, I was working for both Dr. Becky Goldburg at Environmental Defense, an environmental non-governmental organization headquartered in New York, and Professor Stewart’s GMO research project at NYU School of Law.

Through the clinic work, I learned more about research methods and the dynamics of modern international policy than I had in any previous courses or clinic work. My final paper went beyond mere legal research and ultimately incorporated scientific debates, ethical concerns, trade and economic issues in developing countries, and the clash of political and free trade principles of the developed nations — as well as the effects and interplay of these facts in influencing national policies on antibiotic use and GMOs.

Charles Olson (’03)

This clinic provided an exciting opportunity to work with the World Resources Institute (WRI) on a project designed to promote grassroots-driven environmental progress in the developing world. Through “The Access Initiative,”WRI partnered with the U.N. Development Programme and numerous governments to promote access to environmental information, participation in environmental decision-making, and access to environmental justice. My research focused on developing indicators to rate countries in terms of practical access by citizens to courts or other tribunals to protect environmental interests — the “law in action,” not just the “law on the books.”

To understand the practical barriers to access to justice in developing countries, I not only researched and reviewed the published literature, but also interviewed many students and members of the Law School community with personal experience litigating in the developing world. I was struck by their willingness to help identify practical impediments to access to justice through their native legal systems and their passion for addressing the difficulties that I was researching.The resulting paper helped produce a set of analytical tools and indicators that WRI and governments of developing nations can use to monitor and promote access to justice and, more generally, facilitate local environmental advocacy.

Andrew Wolman (’03)

For my project, I worked with Alon Tal, director of Israel’s Arava Institute of Environmental Studies. I did a comparative study of water pollution effluent trading schemes around the world for a project exploring whether such schemes can be effectively implemented in Israel. For me, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the use of economic incentives in environmental regulation under the tutelage of Professor Stewart, one of the world’s foremost experts in the field. One clinic highlight was getting together with the other clinic students from all around the world at Professor Stewart’s house, where we talked about our projects and international environmental law in general.

For Spring 2003, I went to Madrid for an internship with the International Institute for Law and the Environment, one of Spain’s leading environmental law centers. The institute director, Ana Barreira (LL.M. ’96), is an alumna of the International Environmental Law Clinic. The internship was extremely valuable, both to learn environmental law from a European perspective and to have a firsthand view of environmental NGO operations. I worked on a wide variety of projects, from researching water allocation rights along the India-Nepal border to writing a conference proposal on the environmental issues connected to E.U. enlargement to writing a report on the use of conservation easements in Latin America. The experiences provided practical as well as substantive education in international environmental law.