Early in the morning of Sunday, October 23, 1983, two vehicles moved undetected through the streets of Beirut, Lebanon. At 6:22 a.m., one of these vehicles, a yellow Mercedes truck brimming with 12,000 pounds of explosives, crashed into a barrack filled with sleeping United States Marine Corps peace keepers. When the truck reached the center of the barrack, the driver detonated the vehicle. The explosion that resulted was the largest non-nuclear explosion on the face of the Earth up until that point. The devastating blast killed 241 United States Military personnel. Minutes later, the second vehicle exploded, damaging the headquarters of the French peacekeeping contingent, killing 58. The first explosion was the deadliest terror attack against United States citizens prior to September 11, 2001. Few observers could have predicted that the victims and their families’ search for compensation would begin a ripple effect, leading some legal theorists to question the fundamental doctrines of the United States Constitution.
In 2007, Congress and the Bush Administration authorized an agency within the Department of Energy under the America COMPETES Act. The bipartisan goal of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA–E) was to “encourage American innovation” through research and development within the energy sector. Forming ARPA-E was a strong push for “cleaner, more secure, [and] more affordable energy”. In 2009, the Obama Administration provided ARPA-E with its first major funding through stimulus legislation. The next year, the Obama Administration put billions of dollars into research at the Department of Energy, ARPA-E, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The number of clean energy innovations was at a steady incline for about five years since the Obama Administration’s substantial funding .
Governmental interest in cleaning up a polluted site is not a new topic. Congress, in implementing statutes like the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), “makes the polluter pay” while encouraging quick and cost-effective cleanups. There are many benefits to remediating a contaminated site. The redevelopment of brownfield sites provides a great example. Studies show that brownfield remediation can lead to increases in tax revenue for local governments due to the increase in property value near cleanup sites. Environmental liability transfers (ELCs) provide a mechanism for private industries to clean up hundreds of contaminated sites and have done so for the past two decades. An environmental liability transfer is “a transaction in which certain environmental liabilities and the risks of certain contingent environmental liabilities are transferred from one party to another.”
What impact does our food have on water? As the United States’ food and agriculture systems progress, farmers are shifting towards factory farming. These factory farms, officially labeled Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), often pollute water with nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, pathogens, and sediments. Nutrient pollution is harmful to local ecosystems. Nutrients are necessary for plant and animal growth, but in high concentrations, they can have the opposite effect. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the most notorious nutrients, and they are found in animal waste. But waste is not always manure. Poultry CAFO waste is called poultry litter, and it is a mix of manure, bedding, feathers, and waste feed. Excess nutrient levels in streams can cause algae blooms, reducing the dissolved oxygen in the water (which fish need to survive), leading to less wildlife and more dead zones. Nitrogen can also cause human health problems if it gets into drinking water, including several types of cancer and blue baby syndrome (a deadly condition where blood cannot effectively transport oxygen through the body causing blue around the hands, mouth, and feet).
The interactions between Earth’s oceans and land bodies make up one of the oldest natural cycles on the planet. Unfortunately, events on land have had a disproportionately negative effect on the oceans since the evolution of humans. One example that demonstrates this interaction is ocean acidification. Over the last 200 years alone, there has been a 30% increase in ocean acidity. This is the greatest increase in acidity since the Early Eocene Epoch, a time best known for high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, no ice, and surface temperatures 9–14°C higher than today.
United States residency is for sale. As a Hail Mary attempt to jumpstart the U.S. economy, legislators set their sights on a combination of controversial immigration law and classic business tactics. Ultimately, Congress created an investment immigration program. Specifically, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program developed from an interest in promoting the immigration of capital, not just people, in the hopes of expanding the U.S. job market. This program allows investors to pay their way into the country if their investment links to a preapproved project that creates at least ten U.S. jobs.
Unchecked climate change will have disastrous consequences for humanity and the global environment. The world’s current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pathway will likely lead to 4˚C of global warming. That level of warming could make over half of all living species extinct, sink hundreds of coastal cities beneath the ocean, render parts of the Earth virtually uninhabitable, and kill billions of people. Curbing climate change requires substantial reductions in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish turn-of-the-century children’s rights advocate and educator, gave a famous lecture on violent punishment:
Korczak entered with a small boy clutching his hand. Without a word he took the boy’s shirt off, placed him behind a fluoroscope and turned off the overhead light. Everyone could now see the boy’s heart beating rapidly on the screen. “Don’t ever forget this sight,” Korczak told his audience. “Before you raise a hand to a child, before you administer any kind of punishment, remember what his frightened heart looks like.”
The United States legal system fails to adequately provide redress for victims of nonconsensual pornography, also known as “revenge porn.” Prior to 2013, the judicial system ignored the growing presence of nonconsensual pornography. There were no laws specifically in place to either deter or punish individuals who distributed nonconsensual, sexually explicit material. There was little—if any—justice available for victims of revenge porn.
In 1906, Congress passed the infamous National Monument Act (more commonly known as the Antiquities Act), which grants the President broad, discretionary authority to designate national monuments. Over the last 100 years, 16 Presidents from both parties have used this Act to designate 157 national monuments across the United States. For example, on September 18, 1996, President Bill Clinton—standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon—established Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southeastern Utah. At 1.7 million acres, Grand Staircase is the largest national monument in the continental United States. Many were outraged over the monument designation. Senator Orin Hatch, Republican of Utah, exclaimed, that “[i]n all my 20 years in the U.S. Senate, I have never seen a clearer example of the arrogance of federal power.” Another Republican Senator compared the designation to Pearl Harbor. Just over ten years later, former President Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres in Utah, bordering Grand-Staircase, as Bears Ears National Monument. Republican Representative Jason Chafetz immediately criticized the decision, calling the monument “a slap in the face to the people of Utah.” The outrage over these monument designations is still brewing, and in December President Donald J. Trump will head to Utah to announce his plans to reduce the size of these national monuments. The extent to which President Trump will reduce these monuments is unknown, but Utah state officials are pushing for a 90% reduction.