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James Gustave Speth

Our environmental organizations win many battles, but we are losing the planet. Forty-six years after the first Earth Day, we find ourselves on the path to a ruined planet, not one sustained and whole. The hard data on climate, biodiversity, water and more are truly frightening. Clearly, more of the same environmentalism is not going to do the job. We have had huge growth in the size, sophistication and resources of our leading environmental groups. So, clearly, something new is needed – a new environmentalism that offers hope of finally turning the corner before it is too late. To discover this new approach, we have got to ask again: what is an environmental issue? The answer puts us on the search for a new more joyful economy.

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Foreword

Sustainable, Just, and Democratic

Edited by Melissa K. Scanlan

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Environmentalism for the next economy

Sustainable, Just, and Democratic

Jedediah Purdy

For environmental law to contribute to a more egalitarian and cooperative economy, it will have to be recast in a way that gives a central place to the organizing concerns of environmental justice: the distributive effects of environmental law and policy, and the constitutive question of which problems count as environmental, and whose conception of a good life in the natural world environmental law advances. This chapter locates that goal within two developments that have shifted the field more generally: the renewed recognition of the depth and importance of inequality and the emergence of “the Anthropocene” as a characterization of a transformed relationship between human beings and the rest of the planet.

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Kevin B. Jones and Mark James

Solar power is booming across the US, as PV panel costs fall and interest in clean and distributed energy grows. In Vermont, net-metered solar electric generation has grown dramatically over the last seven years due to state and federal policies incentivizing net metering. At the state level, Vermont established group net metering policies creating a stable source of revenue that its banks and credit unions have relied on to approve financing to purchase solar projects. The federal residential investment tax credit (ITC), providing a 30 percent credit for Solar PV generation, further supports solar ownership. While solar ownership has grown, some policymakers and advocates are concerned that the benefits of net-metered solar are not fairly distributed throughout the economy. This chapter explores trends in renewable energy development and how clean distributed energy may disrupt the current utility model. The chapter also explores current state and federal policies for solar development and how they can be used to promote meaningful community ownership: a model that supports the local economy while reducing carbon emissions. The chapter concludes by exploring strategies for scaling up Vermont‘s community solar model to support the goals of a new economy.

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Diana R. H. Winters

The regulation of food in the United States is exceedingly complex. Local, state, and federal regulation coexist, and common law remedies supplement positive law. Strata of regulation are necessary because patterns of production and consumption vary by region and demographic, while federal regulation provides regulatory uniformity across the United States. A system that permits decentralized policymaking, such as the American one, can be a leverage point for change. Recently, several state and local governments in the United States passed laws to address gaps in and perceived problems with federal food policy. Despite, or perhaps because of, their transformative potential, these state and local actions on food policy raise questions about where lies the proper balance between the uniformity and predictability of a national system and the flexibility and responsiveness of local regulation. This chapter discusses some of the problems with the food systems of the United States and the repercussions of these failures, and then explores several more local solutions by looking at this recent state legislation. These laws include a Vermont law mandating the labeling of genetically engineered ingredients, a California law regulating the use of medically important antibiotics in animal feed, the strictest in the country, and several California humane treatment laws. There have been legal challenges to some of these laws in areas where these state actions encroach upon another regulatory authority, whether that of another state or of the federal government. These areas of tension highlight questions about the decentralization of food policy in the United States, including who gets to make policy decisions and the content of these decisions, but these spaces of conflict can also be sources of productivity for the development of food policy. While focused on the United States, the interaction between national and subnational regulatory units in the field of food policy is a matter of relevance to the global community.

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Climate change, system change, and the path forward

Sustainable, Just, and Democratic

Melissa K. Scanlan

The current global economic system, which is fueled by externalizing environmental costs, growing exponentially, consuming more, and a widening wealth gap between rich and poor, is misaligned to meet the climate imperative to rapidly reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Amidst this system breakdown as we reach the end of the Industrial Age, the new economy movement has emerged to provide an alternative approach where ecological balance, wealth equity, and vibrant democracy are central to economic activity. Laws are the fundamental infrastructure that undergirds our economic and political system. Environmental law is typically conceived as a set of rules that establish pollutant limits for specific waterbodies, protect an identified species, or direct an industry to use a required technology. Although necessary, these types of law do not address the fundamentals of our political economy, and the most dramatic failure of environmental law is seen in increasing amounts of GHGs and global climate disruption. In order to develop a new economic system that is aligned with a climate and economic justice imperative, we need laws that will facilitate the new system and discourage the old. This chapter discusses systems thinking and systems change, highlighting leverage points to achieve change. It gives an overview of the new economy movement that has emerged to provide a new narrative, and using a systems lens, identifies areas where the law needs to evolve to facilitate building a more sustainable, equitable, and democratic future.

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Sebastian Eyre and Michael G. Pollitt

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Sebastian Eyre and Michael G. Pollitt

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Sebastian Eyre and Michael G. Pollitt

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Rafael Leal-Arcas, Andrew Filis and Ehab S. Abu Gosh