Environmental forum brings together diverse viewpoints, experts on environmental policy
“If you’re serious about climate but you’re also serious about democracy, you’re going to have to figure out how to make them work together.” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens made that remark during a conversation following his lecture at the annual FIU Environment Forum — a succinct way to sum up a packed two-day conference that explored the forefront of environmental science and policy.
“From Science to Public Choice” was hosted last month by the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program of FIU’s Institute of Environment in partnership with the College of Law’s Environment, Law and Economics Initiative.
Scientists, economists, diplomats, former government officials, lawyers and others discussed obstacles and opportunities associated with sustainable energy and the successes and challenges of the Endangered Species Act, which turned 50 this year, among other topics.
A panel on environmental justice brought together former senior officials at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, some of them going back as far as the Reagan administration, to share observations around the topic of environmental justice – a social movement that examines the exposure of poor and marginalized communities to harms from hazardous waste, resource extraction and other land uses from which they do not receive benefits – and how to address related issues via a cost/benefit analysis of environmental regulations.
Four colleges at FIU and several departments were represented at the forum in addition to the presence of invited speakers from other academic institutions. A dinner at FIU International Center for Tropical Botany on Biscayne Bay featured a keynote from Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s director of emergency management, at which the deans of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education and the College of Law were present, a testament to the wide-ranging nature of the gathering.
“This kind of academic exchange is part of the core mission of FIU,” said Professor Mario Loyola, who organized the conference. A respectful dialogue among diverse viewpoints was possible, Loyola stressed, because there were experts from so many different fields present in the same room. “Experts learned from each other. They expressed diverse viewpoints on very contentious questions, but when you put yourself in the mode of listening and learning, you can avoid contentious arguments.”
Loyola, a research assistant professor and director of the Environment, Law & Economics Initiative at the College of Law and director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program in the Institute of Environment, has worked on environmental policy and regulatory issues for many years, both in and out of government, including as associate director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Trump Administration.
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