While environmental law is an emerging profession in the United States, it is also plays a big role on the international stage.
In the U.S., environmental laws are governed at the local, state, and federal level, and each level can have its own ideas on how best to use and protect the government. The same is true for international governments, which come from countries with varying natural resources. Environmental issues are often highly discussed and debated between countries, and it can be difficult in coming to concise agreements on environmental regulations.
In 1972, the United Nations held the very first international summit to discuss environmental issues, and another followed 20 years later. In that 1992 summit, the United Nations established the Rio Declaration that says societies should develop the Earth so it meets both human and environmental needs now and in the future.
International governments also write and collectively sign treaties that are used to protect the environment. Treaties, regulated by the UN Environment Program and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, are a main way for the global society to respond to current and active threats against the environment.
As environmental lawyers, we are committed to protecting our planet every day, but there are also smaller things outside of laws and regulations that we practice in order to help Mother Earth. Here are a few things we practice around the home and office that we encourage you to adapt as well:
- Skip Plastic. Whenever you can, use glass bottles, canvas shopping bags, and reusable snack bags.
- Switch to Eco-Friendly Products. These days it’s easy to find environmentally-approved versions of all you daily staples – laundry soap, shampoo, and even toilet paper! You can even buy nature-approved beauty products, like nail polish, make up, and lotions. Cleaning products specifically can be very toxic to the environment and to you, so make sure to check the labels for those that are natural and organic.
- Plant a Garden. Organic vegetables are the best for the environment and our bodies, but they may not always be the nicest to our wallets, unless you plant your own. Start a small garden in your backyard and try to make meals featuring those vegetables. It’s a great and tasty way to help the planet!
- Change your Commute. Both airplanes and cars release high levels of toxins into the air, so when you can, travel another way. Instead of driving to work, take public transportation, car pool with colleagues, or try riding your bike to work for extra exercise. For your next vacation, try staying a bit closer to home and exploring your own city or state.
Environmental Law At Work
Our law firm takes on many cases each year that range in scope and subject. Sometimes we work with environmental groups or local businesses, but other times we work with individuals. That was the instance with one case that we worked on about a year ago.
The plaintiff was an employee at a manufacturing plant that produces pharmaceuticals, and a machine malfunctioned that resulted in a spill of hazardous materials. This can happen from time to time, and to protect themselves, companies should have specific safety procedures and protocols put into place for cleanup and handling the situation. This includes an intensive training that is updated on a regular basis. The employee went to clean up the mess but did not use the proper tools and ended up with severe burn that kept him out of work for at least a week, which caused financial hardship.
To handle this case, we worked with a personal injury law firm with extensive experience in fighting for individuals who have been physically harmed in unjust circumstances. Personal injury law firms, such as Hadley Law Firm, work with clients who have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, like in this case. We were able to argue that the company had lapsed in creating regular safety trainings and did not have the proper safety cleanup tools readily available. The court agreed with us and the company was ordered to pay for the employee’s medical bills and the salary he missed while on leave for his injury.
Environmental law can be encompassing of many areas, from the seas to the skies, so we today we are going to discuss a few areas of environmental laws so you can be more comfortable with the topic.
The first is chemical safety, which protects us from too many chemicals in plastics and pesticides. Next, there is contaminant cleanup, like in big chemical spills. These kind of regulations are meant to develop protocols and procedures to minimize how much damage is done after an accident occurs that releases pollution. Similarly, environmental law includes regulation of waste management, such as municipal waste, hazardous substances and nuclear waste. Lawyers help create laws on how these substances are wasted but also persecute entities that do not follow procedures and regulations.
Two other major facets of environmental law include air and water quality. Environmental lawyers create and enforce laws and regulation that actively work to reduce the amount of pollutants being reduced into our air and water. In the air, this can include ozone pollution from vehicles that can cause troubled breathing for those with compromised lungs, such as children, older adults, and people living with a lung disease like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Water quality regulation may also include how to manage treating waste water or surface run off. As we consume both water and air on a daily basis, we must have strong laws in place to ensure these resources are protected.
Those are just some of the topics environmental lawyers work on but there is much more as well. Our main goal is to protect our planet and its natural resources, so we’ll work on any case that may involve that mission.
You may have heard of divorce lawyers or public defenders, but did you know that there is an entire sector of law that dictates how humans interact with our planet and its natural resources? That’s environmental law.
Environmental law is a collection of laws, regulations, and agreements that protect our natural resources from harm by specifying who can use them and how. These natural resources can include the air, forestry, minerals, and animals and fish.
You may not know it, but environmental law impacts your life on a daily basis. From regulating how much pollution can be dumped into the air to creating safety laws regarding plastic in bottles, environmental laws are constantly working to make sure that now all is our planet is safe but also humans.
We need laws and regulation to ensure that we do not destroy these resources and that we continue to create a beautiful and inhabitable planet for future generations.