May 5, 2009
Source: Piedmont 2001

Miller, Marc
School of Law


Project Summary

Excerpt from “The Piedmont Project at Emory University” by Peggy Barlett and Arri Eisen, in, Teaching Sustainability at Universities: Toward Curriculum Greening. 2002 Walter Leal Filho, editor. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

“Public Lands & Natural Resources” (Prof. Marc Miller, Emory School of Law)
This new course connects a set of disparate laws, policies, battles, and histories that relate to public lands, waters (and the organisms and objects on them) and natural resources. His syllabus outlines the range of ways in which the study of law intersects with larger environmental issues:

But even a first effort simply to define the scope of this course runs into barriers. Which resources are considered “natural” depends on a person’s conception of nature. The notion of what is a “resource” is also subjective and contextual. Do we mean only physical objects (animals, minerals, water), or only those objects for which there is market? And if so, must it be a “real” or functioning market? Or do we include as resources qualities of land (silence, isolation, vastness, lack of human presence or control, wildness) or qualities of life forms (native over invasive; genetically varied over genetically uniform; genetically evolved over genetically engineered)?

The volume of materials, issues and laws leads to a very important point about the entire course: it is critical to see the forest and not get caught in the trees (perhaps this saying applies more literally here than for most classes). There are a handful of core themes throughout the course….

The first major theme explores basic questions of value and allocation of resources. What is the best or wisest use of the public lands and natural resources? Whose resources are they – who is the “public” in public lands? How do the answers to these questions change over time and space? Are these questions mainly concerned with identifying the costs and benefits of various uses of lands and natural resources, and if so, have we properly included the full range in both columns? Or are there other choices and responsibilities regarding public lands and resources that fit poorly or not at all within any kind of utilitarian calculus? Complex “answers” that lurk in the materials include the ideas of “multiple use” and “ecosystem management.” One particular “hot” answer to this set of questions is that public lands and natural resources should be used “sustainably,” or, in the most widely used formulation, for “sustainable development.”

We will spend significant time trying to give these ideas meaning with help from a number of texts, including Timothy Flannery’s The Future Eaters: an Ecological History of the Australian Lands and People, McDaniel and Gowdy’s Paradise for Sale: a Parable of Nature, the Bruntland Report, Our Common Future: The World Commission on the Environment and Development, Restoring and Inventing Landscapes, and Harrison’s Constructing Sustainable Development.

Course Syllabus attached

Download: Miller_2001.pdf (283.1 KB)

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