“Sustainability momentum—that’s where the magic is going to happen.” – Eddie Perkin
Investors admonish major companies for “hiding” their environmentally related plans to deal with climate change. In fact, worldwide trends indicate that investors have a strong interest in companies’ climate-related plans. And some companies have “bowed to [these] investor demands” already. However, despite this trend, some of the world’s largest and well-known companies still remain silent on how critical climate-related issues affect their business—including Berkshire Hathaway, Facebook, Netflix, PayPal, and even the electric-car maker, Tesla. And, in recent years, fossil-fuel giants—BP, Exxon, and Chevron—have stopped disclosing their climate-related plans. The reason: because disclosures on environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG) are a dollar-and-cents issue, and revealing climate-sensitive information could be bad for certain businesses. In 2016, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) reported that out of 1,500 disclosures by 637 companies across different 72 industries, nearly 30 percent of the disclosures did not include any climate-related information. Most corporations evade climate-related disclosure because companies do not consider the risks of climate change to be material or that the company does not have a duty to report. Further, in the United States, ESG disclosures are an entirely voluntary measure, so companies have no obligation to report it—for now that is. Despite this disclosure dilemma, tackling climate change must ultimately go beyond the corporate dollar-and-cent mentality.
American filmmaker and writer John Waters once said: “I’d be arrested if I still smoked because I’m the one who would be changing the battery in the airplane in the lavatory to take out the smoke detector. I would’ve been those people they warn you against.” Given the current state of federal law, Waters would have not only inconvenienced the passengers and flight crew, but also given many restless nights to his attorney.
The State of Vermont has been working on designing a payment for ecosystem services (PES) system that would hire farmers to improve watershed function as a strategy to moderate and adapt to climate change. This paradigm recognizes that deep topsoil can provide “flood protection, clean water, food security, and climate resilience and mitigation.” The State and other parties would invest in rebuilding the land’s capacity to provide these services, much like it would invest in rehabilitating physical infrastructure.
On October 28, 2012, a full moon was on display over New York harbor. Twenty-four hours later the pull of that same moon, paired with many other events, brought destruction into the greater New York Metropolitan Area. Superstorm Sandy killed 43 New Yorkers, flooded 51 square miles of the city’s landmass, caused over $19 billion of damage, and shut the power off for weeks. The storm was a tragedy, and a sign of things to come.
“Object anyway!” said James Kirkland Batson to his defense attorney when the prosecutor struck the only three black jurors from the venire during jury selection for his trial. When Mr. Batson first inquired about the seemingly discriminatory peremptory challenges to his public defender, his attorney replied, the prosecutor does not need to disclose why he struck the jurors. This did not sit right with Mr. Batson. He encouraged his attorney to object anyway, and his attorney did. This choice was the catalyst that would lead to the monumental Supreme Court decision on peremptory challenges and the Fourteenth Amendment.
This year, Vermont ski area Pico Mountain (Pico) broke ground on a project ramping up its snowmaking. In the past, Pico’s snowmaking has suffered from running out of water when their “snowmaking needs are greatest.” Starting this 2019-2020 winter season, Killington Mountain Resort (Killington), another Vermont skiing destination, will be piping water from Killington’s water sources directly to the privately owned Pico ski area snowmaking pond (Killington-Pico snowmaking interconnect). Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation (the Department) approved this 2.1 million dollar snowmaking project on September 17, 2019. With access to Killington’s water supply, Pico will be able to “keep making snow without pause” ending the problem that has limited Pico’s snowmaking in the past: “running out of water when snowmaking needs are greatest.” This investment is only the most recent of Pico’s improvements to take place since Killington acquired the ski area in 1997. Snowmaking is not new to the ski-industry in Vermont, but becoming more quintessential to the survival and longevity of the season.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have become the subject of public outrage in recent years after revelations that manufacturers of these chemicals have long known of their potential dangers but hid this knowledge from the public. In one of the most infamous examples, DuPont chemical company knowingly disposed of one type of toxic perfluoroalkyl substance for over fifty years in unlined pits, contaminating the drinking water of more than 100,000 people in West Virginia and Ohio near DuPont’s Washington Works facility. The Washington Works case has spurred a class-action lawsuit involving 80,000 plaintiffs that settled for $343 million, a documentary, and a feature film, and has helped focus public attention on this toxic and environmentally persistent class of chemicals. Despite increased public scrutiny, the federal government has been slow to regulate PFAS. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet promulgated a legally enforceable standard for any of the more than 4,700 individual chemicals in the PFAS group, in part, due to the still incomplete understanding of the effects of PFAS on human health. In the absence of formal federal regulation, a handful of states have begun to regulate PFAS, primarily in drinking water. Yet few state regulations exist that address PFAS waste, which contaminates soil, groundwater, and other media, despite the growing realization that contamination from PFAS waste is widespread.
Imagine you are an immigrant. You are legally in the United States on an F1 Visa. You have almost completed your university studies when you get an unsuspecting email from the President of another University applauding your accomplishments and enticing you to further your studies at his school. You check out the school’s website and verify its accreditation. The school appears legitimate. You send in your application, get accepted, and pay tuition. You think you are legally in the United States on an F1 Visa, until that school closes, blaming their own recruiters, and you, for scamming the system. Not only do you lose the money you paid for tuition, but you also lose your status in the United States.
The mysterious void of outer space is one of the last great unknowns yet to be understood. Is there life beyond earth? That question plaguing humans for generations has yet to be answered. However, the solution draws near. We may not know what is out there, but we do know that organisms from earth can survive the vacuum of space. Not only can simple organisms survive, but even animals have been found to survive the extreme dehydration and UV radiation they encounter beyond Earth’s atmosphere. So when we discover life, how can we be sure that we were not the ones who brought it there?
Immigration courts in the United States are facing the largest case backlog recorded since 1998. Due to a regulation imposed by Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, immigration judges are directed to complete 700 removal cases a year. Deciding 700 cases a year roughly equates to deciding a case every 2.5 hours. Immigration judges are overworked and increasingly left demoralized by directives imposed by the Trump Administration. Rightfully so, immigration judges are tasked with deciding numerous asylum decisions—pertaining to life and death situations—each day. Immigration judge Dayna Leigh Marks describes the process as “holding death penalty cases in traffic court.” Asylum hearings feel this way to immigration judges because they are tasked with deciding whether asylum applicants deserve protection from the U.S. on account of persecution in their home countries. Asylum applicants are often fleeing violence from countries where the government is unwilling or unable to protect them.