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Wednesday, November 27, 2013
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Where’s the Law?

By Guest Author, Jennifer Skene, Yale Law School '14

“Where’s The Finance (WTF)?” That was the question posed repeatedly the past two weeks during the UNFCCC’s 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw. But this simply leads to another question: “Where’s the Law?”

In other cases of environmental damage for the past seventy years, under international law the question of “Where’s the Finance?” has been comparatively easy to answer—it lies with the countries to blame for the harms caused. This is known as the polluter pays principle (PPP), and it is now a widely recognized tenet of international law. Yet the PPP has yet to materialize in any UNFCCC agreements, meaning that developing countries, which are the hardest hit by climate change, are left with minimal financial assistance.

Ironically, it was a case brought by the United States that provided the initial foundation for the PPP. In the 1941 Trail Smelter decision the United States won a dispute against Canada for compensation for pollution damages caused to the U.S. by a Canadian smelter.

With climate change, however, the U.S. and other developed countries are successfully keeping compensation out of the picture, and this COP in Warsaw was no different.  The “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage (IMLD)” is the compromise States reached during their overtime negotiations on Saturday, November 23. Despite the calls of developing nations to create a separate loss and damage mechanism, the IMLD will be housed under the existing adaptation mechanisms. Essentially this means that funding provided by developed nations, if and when it should materialize, will come in the form of financial assistance, not compensation for harm caused by greenhouse gas emissions. And this financial assistance will almost certainly be far from adequate.

It may be up to other international legal institutions to bring compensation into the picture. In 2011 and 2012 the island nation of Palau sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on whether the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters are responsible for harm caused to developing countries. While an advisory opinion would not be binding, it could offer sufficient legal support to compel States to create a loss and damage mechanism based on compensation. However, developed countries, led by the United States, stymied Palau’s campaign, and it is, for now, dead in the water.

So Where’s The Finance? Until we answer the question of “Where’s the Law?” finance may remain elusive. As the latest COP further demonstrates, answering the question of “Where’s the Law” may take the authority of a body outside the UNFCCC altogether—like the ICJ. Until the entire international community understands compensation to be a legally binding obligation that they cannot negotiate away, developing countries will likely be left asking “WTF?”

Jennifer Skene is a third-year law student at Yale from Tallahassee, FL. She is the chair of the Native American Law Students Association, a board member for the Yale Environmental Law Association, and a Features Editor on the Yale Journal of International Law. Jennifer is active in Yale's Environmental Protection Clinic, and this past summer she received a Ford Fellowship to work at the Center for International Environmental Law. 

Posted in: Environmental Law & GovernanceEnergy & Climate
Friday, November 22, 2013
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Down the Drain—Water Metering in the Home

By Guest Author, Rachel Lipstein, Yale College '15

Superstorms and costal flooding may grab headlines, but water scarcity is emerging as our most immediate environmental concern. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent assessment highlights the increasing risk of water scarcity in this age of climate extremes and skyrocketing populations. Another recent study finds that if, by the end of the century, 500 million people are subjected to water scarcity, it will be the result of an optimistic warming scenario. Even now, the droughts plaguing many of the world’s most arid regions—including parts of western United States—are contributing to economic fragility and social unrest.

Water meters, small devices that track water usage, could play a key role in helping people understand the reality of water as a limited resource. Because they allow utilities to bill by volume, meters encourage customers to conserve—often with dramatic results. In this series, we will examine metering's effect on water consumption, its intersection with cultural norms and individual rights, and its impact on communities.The first installment highlighted water metering policy in Chile.


In 2009, only 55 percent of the homes in California’s San Joaquin Valley had water meters installed. That low percentage was not the result of a naturally slow adoption process. It was a result of aggressive resistance to the devices, which were billed as “taxing machines.”[1] When the city of Fresno, in the heart of the arid valley, attempted to install 8,000 meters in a pilot program, a group of taxpayers fought fiercely and successfully to amend the city charter, banning residential meters.

The United States isn’t the only developed country with popular opposition to metering. In southern England a renewed compulsory metering drive has been met with indignation. Some customers claim that volumetric pricing is a tax on children, as larger families might now pay more.[2] Financial concerns are colored by a popular distrust of England’s private utility companies. In the past decade, water prices have increased 84 percent, while the utilities profits have jumped up to 200 percent.[3]

With correct regulation, however, residential metering encourages individual conservation. When coupled with grace period and gradual price increases, metering can be rolled out fairly. In Denmark, the transition to residential metering and volumetric billing were correlated with a 12.6-percent decrease in consumption between 1996 and 2007.[4]

Metering also improves equity. When customers pay by volume, the implicit subsidy that high-volume users receive at the expense of low-volume users is eliminated. Although most residences in the United States are metered, regulations differ by state and even by district. Water is not always billed volumetrically. Many meters are never even read.

In the past, Fresno utilities charged a flat rate regardless of usage. For a city that averaged just under 290 gallons per person per day—almost triple the national average of 100 gallons—this was a problem.[5] In light of diminishing aquifer levels and excessive usage, the California legislature mandated that any city drawing from federal dams install water meters by 2013.[6]

Today, Fresno is almost completely metered, and the results have been positive. Patrick Weimiller, Fresno’s director of Public Works, told local news affiliate KFSN that he has already seen a reduction in usage. “Our actual numbers are showing we're about 17 percent below where we were with the fixed rate, with some room to grow.”[7]

This post is the second in a series on water metering. The next installment will look at agricultural metering in the United States.

[7] http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=8934000

Rachel Lipstein is a junior at Yale College majoring in English major with a concentration in Writing. She is interested in sustainable agriculture and enjoys spending time on farms. Previously, she worked on the 108-foot sloop, Clearwater, which is dedicated to protecting the Hudson River through education, advocacy, and celebration.

Posted in: Environmental Performance MeasurementEnvironmental Law & GovernanceEnergy & Climate
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Heirs to Our Land: The Changing Face of US Farmers and Resources for Incoming Practitioners

By Guest Author, Avana Andrade, Yale F&ES '15

Jason Foscolo’s November 6 webinar, “Food Law Activism: Legal Models for Sustainable Businesses,” launched Part II of the Frontiers in Food and Agriculture webinar series. Part II of the series focuses on food and agriculture law—often a complex and bewildering topic for producers across the country. The principal attorney at the Food Law Firm in New York, Foscolo works with local farmers and producers committed to sustainability, offering legal guidance on how to remain competitive in the food industry in the long term. His work is especially important as both the farming demographic and modes of agricultural production shift, but must still work within the same legal apparatus.

Even as conventional family farms in the Intermountain West, for example, are finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat, and as the percentage of residents in the region involved in agriculture have declined to less than 2 percent, recent shifts in the national agricultural community may indicate that trend is changing. Utah counties have lost 434,000 acres of farmland between 1974 and 2007 and yet smaller urban farms have increased by 20 percent during the same period. This change has prompted some farmers to consider diversifying and becoming involved with organic farming or even growing landscaping plants.

Median farm household income, according to a USDA study, was expected to decrease by 2.5 percent in 2013. Furthermore, many farms (defined broadly) continued to remain unprofitable nationwide even in the best of years, painting what is, perhaps, a less-than-reassuring entré into the scene for beginning farmers. Although the career path may not promise dividends in the short term, for many families and individuals, farming is an essential part of their family history, or it may simply represent a new way of living in modern society. Whatever the draw is, a new, and decidedly young, approach to farming is emerging.

The agriculture business is dominated by an aging population (the average farmer age increased from 47.6 to 57.1 from 2003-2007), unable to pass their farms onto their daughters or sons. Since 1982 the percentage of new farmers who have managed their land for ten years or less has steadily declined, according to the 2007 Agricultural Census. However, the faces of America’s farmers may slowly be changing. The passing of lands, so to speak, is nothing to overlook as less than 10 percent of U.S. farmers have transition plans for their lands or businesses and the eventual passing of these properties will represent the transfer of an enormous amount of real estate. Into whose hands will these lands fall?

A 2011 National Young Farmers Coalition Survey found that not only do many young people want to farm, they also want to farm in unconventional ways. The biggest barriers to their entry, predictably, are access to land and capital. As a recent NPR feature highlights, young, aspiring farmers aren’t necessarily flocking to the farm out of any romanticized notion of a bucolic lifestyle, but out of a genuine desire to create viable small farming and ranching business models that advance new agricultural techniques. Their efforts, though, are beset by high land prices and student loan debt.

In other words, “(t)oday’s new farmers aren’t just white hipsters;” rather, they are individuals and couples in their 20s, 30s and 40s from widely varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds who are ready to buy farmland, build businesses or cooperatives, and continue old family traditions, or create new ones. This upwelling of more-than-a-passing interest is reflected in the emergence of the National Young Farmer’s Coalition and the Young Farmer’s Conference, both of which give new farmers venues through which they can voice ideas, gather legal and business resources, and build collective momentum. New publications like the Modern Farmer Magazine, which features farmers across the country and offers news on a wide variety of daily farming topics, attempt to facilitate this burgeoning conversation amongst new and old practitioners. Although the next frontier for America’s food movement remains to be seen, online publications such as Young Farmers Unite, which offers information on topics such as agroecology, loan equity, and healthcare issues, indicate that for many incoming farmers, collaboration, education, innovation, creativity and empowerment are central tenets of their endeavors.

A change in demographics alone may have a variety of implications for how farming in the US looks in the twenty-first century. It may mean more non-conventional farming operations seeking legal support from attorneys like Foscolo as they implement new business models, develop alternative farming practices, and establish new regional markets for their goods.

A recording Jason Foscolo's webinar is available here: http://vimeo.com/79785843.

Resources For New Farmers

National Young Farmers’ Coalition: http://www.youngfarmers.org/

This organization works to support young farmers and offers news and a wide variety of resources on policy, food safety, the Farm Bill, and USDA farming programs. It also features a database for training and educational opportunities nationwide.

Report: “Building a Future with Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help them Succeed,”National Young Farmers’ Coalition, November 2011

Young Farmers Conference: http://www.stonebarnscenter.org/articles/2012-young-farmers-conference-1.html

The New York-based Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, an organization dedicated to creating sustainable food systems through education and training, holds the annual Young Farmers Conference to offer workshops, business courses, and demonstrations for beginning farmers. The Center’s websiteis also a valuable source of regional farming resources as well.

Greenhorns:  http://www.thegreenhorns.net/#

This non-profit organization offers an online network of support for beginning farmers by producing “avant-garde programming, video, audio, web content, publications, events, and art projects” that bring new and innovative resources to the fore. The Greenhorns produces the 2013New Farmers Almanac, which offers essays on agrarian philosophy with the intent of shaping and implementing an alternative food system or, in their words, to “reclaim a landscape dominated by monoculture.”

The National Young Farmer Association: http://www.nyfea.org/what-we-do.html                 

NYFEA is a leadership development and community service organization based in Montgomery, AL and focuses on educating beginning/young farmers and agribusiness professionals through workshops, conferences, and seminars.

The Land Stewardship Project: http://landstewardshipproject.org/morefarmers/fbresources

The Land Stewardship Project is a Minnesota-based organization that provides information and workshops for farmers on how to map out business plans and learning strategies. If offers a Farm Beginnings Course as well as a Farmer Network of more than 130 farms of widely varying enterprises.

Beginning Farmers: An Online Resource for Farmers, Researchers, and Policy Makers: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/finding-land-to-farm/

This website offers a clearing house of resources on finding land to farm across the country with links to programs such as LandLink, Lands of America, LoopNet, and Land and Farm.

Farm Aid-Beginning Farmer Resource Guide:  http://www.farmaid.org/site/c.qlI5IhNVJsE/b.8064555/k.95D2/Beginning_Farmers.htm

Farm Aid lists a wide variety of resources for individuals to get started, and includes listings on internships, and apprenticeships nationwide. It also provides the Farm Start-Up Resource Guide, which outlines aspects such as creating a business plan, financing, and finding land.

The Center for Rural Affairs: http://www.cfra.org/resources/beginning_farmer

The Center is a Nebraska-based organization focused on supporting rural communities and farms. Like other regional farming sites it lists resources for financing, connecting new farmers with retiring landowners, and business strategy.

US Farm Lease : http://www.usfarmlease.com/

US Farm Lease provides a venue for landowners to be connected with operators. The website facilitates this process with a national database and map of all available listings, as well as educational tools, newsletters, and Farm Bill updates.

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center: http://afsic.nal.usda.gov/

This component of the USDA National Agricultural Library collects information and resources regarding sustainable food systems.

Beginning New Farmers: http://afsic.nal.usda.gov/farms-and-community/beginningnew-farmers

Recognizing the aging farming population in the US this USDA online source looks to enable the transition of the farm economy to new hands with programs such as Start2Farm.

Farm Loan Programs-Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loans: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=fmlp&topic=bfl

The USDA Farm Service Agency gathers information for new farmers on initiating and navigating the loan application process.

Ag Link: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/bfc/farm

Ag Link is a resource for incoming Iowa farmers to find land and financial support and for retiring farmers who wish to preserve their farm business but do not have anyone to continue the enterprise.

Connecticut FarmLink: http://www.farmlink.uconn.edu/

The FarmLink program helps family farms prepare for a transition in ownership to facilitate their continued operation. The program also helps new farmers create business plans, and become familiar with local regulations.

Food Law Resources

The National Agricultural Law Center: http://nationalaglawcenter.org/

The Center is the “only agricultural law research and information facility that is independent, national in scope, and directly connected to the national agricultural information network.” It covers many aspects of food and agricultural law and allows users to research by topics such as agricultural leases, corporate farming laws, crop insurance, or national organic programs. The Center publishes research articles on a wide range of topics and assembled an Ag Law Bibliography and Glossary.

The Association of American Law Schools: https://memberaccess.aals.org/eWeb/dynamicpage.aspx?webcode=ChpDetail&chp_cst_key=9744d7fd-4898-415c-8c15-4740cc8f204e

The AALS website may not be a particularly useful source of information regarding legal issues, aside from providing potential points of contact. However, the blog “Agricultural Law,”the official blog of the AALS’ section on Agricultural and Food Law may provide relevant and up-to-date information or discussion on legal aspects of farming.

American Agricultural Law Association: http://aglaw-assn.org/

The AALA provides resources on various topics such as agricultural law, animal rights, cooperatives, farm policy, land use regulation, and property rights, along with bibliographies, and seminar and conference listings. AALA also maintains the “Ag & Food Law Blog,” with the National Agricultural Law Center, a source of nation-wide news.

Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network: http://www.nichemeatprocessing.org/

NMPAN helps connect small meat processors with each other and support their network with access to business and policy resources.  The organization also offers particular sets of tools for individuals new to the industry.

Avana Andrade is a first year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She earned her B.A. in International Studies and Western European History at Colorado State University in 2010. Before returning to school, she worked as a public historian and backcountry ranger with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in both Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Her work has focused on the history of grazing and cultural resource management in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park. Work and recreation on the Colorado Plateau motivates her primary interest in grad school, environmental conflict mediation. Avana is a Colorado native and an avid backpacker and gardener.

Posted in: Energy & Climate
Monday, November 18, 2013
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Business as Unusual: Building the New Food Movement with Business Law

By Guest Author, Avana Andrade, Yale F&ES '15

In the next installment of our Frontiers in Food and Agriculture webinar series on November 20, Rachel Armstrong will continue our conversation on how legal expertise and legal knowledge can rebuild and reinforce a burgeoning food system in the US. In her presentation,“Business as Unusual: Building the New Food Movement with Business Law,” Rachel Armstrong will expound on innovative business models and legal tools that attorneys are using to help farmers face daily and seasonal challenges such as employment and contract law issues.

Armstrong is the founder and executive director of Farm Commons, a Madison, WI-based non-profit that providing legal services to sustainable farmers. Her previous work on farms, managing community gardens, catering, and running a local foods marketing program motivated her to earn her law degree. She’s written several articles and books, instructed university and attorney classes in agricultural law, and, in 2012, received the Echoing Green Fellowship, an award recognizing the world’s most promising social entrepreneurs.

As previous speakers, Jason Foscolo and Laurie Ristino, have helped demonstrate, creating the legal framework to support an emerging local and regional food movement is critical and there are many creative and unexplored ways of transforming a conventional food system that does not meet changing social demands or support environmental integrity. If, as Rachel Armstrong suggests, farmers are social entrepreneurs in developing innovative business models, then the role they play in implementing a sustainable food system advances both economic and social concerns such as community health and even race relations. In this light, the ways that attorneys, consumers, researchers and students can support those endeavors become ever more important.

Rachel Armstrong’s webinar will be followed by an interactive question and answer session with the audience. Please register online here: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/454961063 and join us on Wednesday, November 20 at 12:00-1:00 PM EST. If you can’t make it to the webinar but would still like to listen to Rachel Armstrong’s presentation, or any of our previous webinars, please find the recordings on our website.

On December 4, Janelle Orsi, a “sharing economy lawyer” and the executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, will pick up the webinar series with her presentation “Legal Structures for Just and Sustainable Food Systems” focusing on barter, sharing, cooperatives, local currencies, and local investing. For more details see: http://envirocenter.yale.edu/events/. Registration is available here: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/390068879.

Avana Andrade is a first year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She earned her B.A. in International Studies and Western European History at Colorado State University in 2010. Before returning to school, she worked as a public historian and backcountry ranger with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in both Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Her work has focused on the history of grazing and cultural resource management in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park. Work and recreation on the Colorado Plateau motivates her primary interest in grad school, environmental conflict mediation. Avana is a Colorado native and an avid backpacker and gardener.

Posted in: Energy & Climate
Thursday, November 14, 2013
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USDA Climate Director Sheds Light on the Vulnerabilities of the Global Food Sector

By Guest Author, Verner Wilson, III, Yale F&ES '15

In a recent lecture at Yale, USDA Climate Change Office Director William Hohenstein said climate “extremes” are becoming the new normal. Hotter days, longer heat waves, more drought, intense storms and extreme rainfall will mean more challenges to food growers worldwide, and that will affect everyone.

Mr. Hohenstein’s office is responsible for coordinating a response to a changing climate in the agriculture and food sectors, providing recommendations to America’s top leaders on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, serving as a liaison to thirteen federal agencies on climate change, and helping represent the US during international climate negotiations.

The severity of what climate change could mean for agriculture was driven home by a leaked UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report earlier this month. The report, scheduled for release in March 2014, included projections that have the world’s food supply decreasing by up to 2 percent every decade due to more extreme climate conditions. It is a stark reversal from the 2007 IPCC report that stated food supplies could actually improve under climate change. The projections for decreased food supply come as global population is expected to increase to over 9.6 billion people by 2050.

Many places have already witnessed these impacts, and delegates to Warsaw COP, including Mr. Hohenstein, will undoubtedly hear about them. The UN World Food Program estimated that in 2011 alone, countries in Central Africa, such as Mauritania, have lost nearly half of their average five-year crop yield due to severe drought conditions. This means that many poorer communities and developing nations will see increased mortality due to nutrition issues, especially for the elderly and the young.

More intense storms, like Typhoon Haiyan, will also impact food and agriculture. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Haiyan, which caused huge losses and damage to the Philippines, hit its agriculture and fishing industries hard. More than one million farmers were hurt and thousands of hectares of rice farms were destroyed. The FAO is calling for at least $24 million in relief for the Philippines agriculture sector alone.

During his lecture, Mr. Hohenstein showed a map detailing climate projections for various regions in the US. The Northeast can expect higher temperatures, extreme precipitation and coastal flooding. The Midwest, considered the country’s breadbasket, will see more extreme rainfall, increased heat events, and fewer workable field days. In the Southeast, temperatures will increase, along with drought, sea level rise, and invasive pests. The Southern Plains and Southwest, however, are likely to be the most adversely affected, primarily due to decreased water supplies, less snow, increased drought, hotter temperatures, and more wildfires. The full USDA report on regional climate impacts is available here.

Since impacts will vary by region, USDA is establishing seven regional hubs to help growers with risk assessments and adaptation strategies. Mr. Hohenstein also unveiled a new tool under development by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in collaboration with USDA. The tool will project the Palmer Drought Severity Index in the US for the rest of the century.  The index currently measures real-time soil moisture based on precipitation and temperature, but projections from the new tool showed an alarming prediction of greater periods of drought across a spatial and temporal map of the US.

This week, I am going to Warsaw for the UN Climate negotiations to job-shadow the Red Cross Climate Center and learn about the organization’s efforts to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. While there, I will be thinking of a recent blog by Dr. Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). He advocates for the global food sector to adopt “climate-smart agricultural practices,” such as crop rotation and other proven conservation techniques and increased use of innovative regimes such as livestock insurance.

In Warsaw, I look forward to learning more about this issue, but also helping others understand the outcomes of the climate negotiations.  As we’ve seen in the food and agriculture sector, the stakes are high across the world and there is a lot of work to do. 

Verner Wilson, III, is a first-year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is originally from Bristol Bay, Alaska, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2008 from Brown University. He previously worked for the World Wildlife Fund, as well as a coalition of Alaska Native tribes, on issues related to sustainable wild salmon fisheries, environmental justice, mining, oil and gas, and climate change.

Posted in: Energy & Climate
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Rit Aggarwala to Speak on Megacities’s Leadership in Climate Change Adaptation

By Guest Author, Amy Weinfurter, Yale F&ES '15

Amidst the frustration surrounding national and international action to address climate change, cities are increasingly emerging as leaders in both adaptation and mitigation. As the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group notes, “City mayors are directly accountable to their constituents for their decisions, and are more nimble than state and national elected officials to take decisive action—often with immediate and impactful results. What … cities do individually and in unison to address climate change can set the agenda for communities and governments everywhere.”

Cities’ leadership in addressing global warming has potentially enormous impacts: the world’s larger cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, or over 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. From the development of glow-in-the-dark bike paths to the increasing use of green infrastructure and green spaces to buffer storm events, urban communities are especially adept seeing opportunities for change through existing infrastructure. This makes their innovations rapidly scalable, enabling the kind of fast-moving change needed to reduce or respond to climate change.   

As the former director of long-term planning and sustainability for New York City and the current special advisor to Michael Bloomberg in his role as chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Rit Aggarwala works at the center of this activity.  He visits Yale next week to discuss how implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally will help address climate change globally. His talk, “Climate Change Adaptation in Megacities,” takes place on Thursday, November 21, at 5:00 PM, in Kroon Hall's Burke Auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.

His presentation concludes a semester-long speaker series titled From Mitigation to Adaptation: Regional Responses to Climate Change. The series, co-hosted by YCELP and YCEI, highlights regional and local approaches to climate adaptation, and how those strategies fit within the larger context of climate change mitigation.

Amy Weinfurter is a first-year Masters of Environmental Management (MEM '15) candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, focusing on the intersection between environmental communication and policy. Before arriving at Yale, she studied English and environmental science at Colby College, and worked with non-profit organizations in  Colorado and Washington, D.C., on communication, watershed management, and community outreach and engagement initiatives.

Posted in: Environmental Law & GovernanceEnergy & Climate
Monday, November 11, 2013
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The New Food Movement: How We Got Here and Why It Matters

By Guest Author, Jena Clarke, Yale F&ES '15

Laurie Ristino will join us Wednesday, November 13, for our next Frontiers in Food and Agriculture webinar. She’ll continue our discussion of the legal framework for the new food system with her presentation “The New Food Movement: How We Got Here and Why it Matters.” 

Laurie Ristino joins us from Vermont Law School (VLS), where she is the director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) and an associate professor of law. Laurie holds a Masters of Public Administration from George Mason University and a law degree from the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to VLS, she served as senior counsel with the Office of the General Counsel at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). There, she advised on a wide range of environmental and natural resource policy issues for the Department, the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). She has worked extensively on the development and implementation of the farm bill and numerous instances of conservation and restoration policy.

With CAFS, Laurie works to realize the Center’s dual missions: to develop the next generation of sustainable food and agriculture law and policy leaders while providing legal and policy resources and solutions for citizens to build and support such systems. Through their work, Laurie and CAFS address the challenge of producing healthy food to feed the growing global population while maintaining and sustaining the natural resources which these systems both materially impact and upon which they depend.

In her webinar, Laurie will draw from her expertise on and experience with the foundations of food and agricultural policy to provide us with the background to modern American agricultural history and the new food and agriculture movement. Laurie believes the success of sustainable food systems demands an understanding of the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the conventional industrial agricultural industry and its means of production, distribution, and marketing; her presentation will help us draw the links between the past, present and future of these issues.

Laurie Ristino’s presentation will be followed by an interactive question and answer session with the listening audience. To register, visit https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/156388167 and then log in from 12:00 – 1:00 PM EST on November 13. Can’t make the live broadcast? Don’t worry! We will be recording the presentation and posting it on our website.

The series continues Wednesday, November 20, with a presentation by Rachel Armstrong, founder and executive director of Farm Commons -- an organization providing detailed education to farmers and food advocates on business legal issues, including land leasing, sales, hiring, and food safety. For more details, visit http://envirocenter.yale.edu/events. Registration is available online at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/454961063.

Jena Clarke is a first-year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She earned her B.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis in 2009.  She is interested in agricultural policy, especially relating to livestock production and rangeland management. Her background is in cattle ranching in the US and Australia, where she worked as a cowgirl and later as a business analyst for a corporate agricultural funds manager.

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