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The rocky mountains, not as deeply snowcapped as they once were, are visible nearly everywhere from within the University of Colorado School of Law’s Wolf Law Building. By design, the large energy-efficient windows make lights often unnecessary during the day, with the side benefit that no one ever has to ask what the weather is like outside. Last April, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program awarded the Wolf building a gold rating for its exceptional energy and water efficiency, recycling of construction debris and use of “green” building materials. “We really needed a new building and I wanted whatever we built to be LEED-certified,” said the law school’s dean, David Getches. “We have a very strong reputation for environmental law and I thought we needed to walk our talk.” The Wolf building is the second law school built with the environment in mind � the neighboring University of Denver’s Frank H. Ricketson Jr. Law Building was certified LEED gold in 2003 � and will not be the last. Law academics around the nation agree that climate change has made it imperative for law schools to consider the elusive concept of sustainability in how they build, operate and educate. “The interest in sustainability has impacted virtually every element of legal education. It affects the physical plant, how schools operate and it will affect what law schools teach and the research agenda,” said Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson, professor at Stanford Law School. “It changes what you teach and how you teach it,” he said. “Every law school that claims to teach the important subjects has to have a course on climate change and energy resources from the perspective of new technologies and efficiency.” Construction and curriculum Sustainability, or more specifically sustainable development, was formally defined by a United Nations commission in 1987 as development that “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Applying the concept when constructing a building is straightforward; applying it to curriculum beyond environmental law classes is not. “Sustainability is a broad concept in search of a concrete grounding,” said J.B. Ruhl, a professor at Florida State University College of Law who teaches property law and law courses related to ecosystem management, endangered species and other environmental problems. “It is tough enough to teach ecosystem management,” Ruhl said. “Sustainability is even tougher. There is no national sustainability act. It is an organizing principle, but there is no discrete body of sustainability law.” There are no precise measures of the extent to which sustainability is shaping decisions on operations and curriculum, but there are many indications that it is quickly becoming pervasive. Numerous professors said courses on energy, climate change and sustainability are overbooked. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education reported that 450 campuses have signed on to the association’s American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (AASHE), which requires participants to reduce emissions and develop a plan to become carbon neutral. “Every professional school recognizes students are tuned into this,” said AASHE Associate Director Julian Dautremont-Smith. “Increasingly, they want a livelihood in which they make a difference, and businesses are learning that sustainability can be profitable.” Law school sustainability initiatives march in step with university policy. Harvard Law School has both a graduate green living program, encouraging students to recycle and reduce energy use, and a newly launched environmental law program. Harvard University is working up a 50-year master plan for expansion into Boston’s Allston neighborhood that will begin by seeking LEED gold certification for all of the buildings. Yale, Stanford and many other schools are similarly committed to sustainability at the university level, with their law schools following suit. “Law schools are beginning to see they have an obligation to build and operate their facilities in a responsible way that takes into account climate and energy,” said Jody Freeman, director of Harvard’s environmental law program. “You see students really responding to this,” Freeman said. “I have 70-some students signed up for my introductory environmental law course and a 30-student waiting list. Basically, these issues will affect every field, wherever you practice. Students will be doing work trading carbon credits and they will do it even if they don’t ever think of themselves as environmentalists.” The cost of constructing energy-efficient buildings is not onerous. Officials at both the University of Denver and University of Colorado law schools said lofty sustainability criteria added about 1% to construction costs. That was quickly made up by reduced energy use. “When you see buildings on campus a hundred years old and a new building saves 25% or 30% in energy costs, that is very significant,” said Mo Tabrizi, assistant director of engineering and campus conservation officer at the University of Colorado in Boulder. About one-third of the applicants to the University of Denver Sturm College of Law express an interest in environmental law, said George W. “Rock” Pring, a professor at the school specializing in environmental and natural resources issues. The challenge is incorporating sustainability into the core curriculum that reaches the other two-thirds of the students. “Having a green building is a 21st century imperative, but that’s the box, it isn’t what’s in the box,” Pring said. “Sustainability affects contracts, development, investment, intellectual property, everything that lawyers deal with. No one course, professor or program will reach all the students. We need a comprehensive curriculum that makes students aware of these values in the same way we did with civil rights starting a generation ago.” A ‘huge’ interest The challenge facing business, governments and international institutions is to maintain global economic growth while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions by 50%, or potentially much more, by the middle of the century. The economic implications are enormous and certain to factor into the careers of today’s law students, said Jim Salzman, a professor at both Duke Law School and Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. “At Duke there is huge interest. I have over 100 students in my environmental law class. The question is what they do when they graduate,” Salzman said. “What is the political economy of all this? There will be huge transfers of wealth and everyone will be angling to be on the winning side. It is very likely the U.S. will have national climate legislation. You will need lawyers who understand that.” “Climate change is going to affect everything,” agreed Anita Halvorssen, a law professor at the University of Denver. She teaches a course in sustainable development and trade, and is offering a new course on global climate change law and policy. “Businesses realize there is a huge market for renewable energy and emissions trading,” Halvorssen said. “It is going to have a lot of impacts. The insurance business has already figured it out. They are working on alternative energy because when more severe storms come, they will be on the hook.” First, but disappointed The University of Washington School of Law has long had a master’s program titled the Law of Sustainable International Development. The program founder, Emeritus Professor Roy Prosterman, said he is pleased that he launched the first such program in the country, but worried that it remains unique. “I am not sure there is another law school yet that offers an LL.M. in the sustainable-development area,” he said. “It’s a little disappointing. We’d like a little company.” Prosterman, who began working on sustainable international development issues in 1967, worries that even at the current pace law schools may not be doing enough, soon enough, to graduate lawyers capable of reshaping national and international legal systems to meet the sustainability imperative. “The narrower issues surrounding global warming are more present in law school curricula today than even three or four years ago, but if I was to go through the catalogues of the 50 top law schools, I doubt even a majority of them are paying attention with a free-standing course,” Prosterman said. “I hope we have enough visionary deans and faculty who are proactive in figuring out these planetary issues [and] putting them in front of the students and even in the core curriculum,” Prosterman added. “Law schools educate a major portion of politicians and community leaders. We have a big responsibility to educate our students about these issues.”

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