Other Symposium Events

March 7-31, 2016

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Time Event
1:00 pm

Sandra B. Zellmer

Facing Floods and Climate Change While Reforming Disaster Law

Room 7, Hulston Hall

MU School of Law

Sandra B. Zellmer

If Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and the Missouri and Mississippi River Floods of the past decade have taught us nothing else, they have shown that flooding is a recurrent hazard throughout the nation with enormously destructive effects on lives and property. Climate change, extreme storm events, and rising sea levels are placing ever greater pressure on governments to protect vulnerable populations and the natural amenities and ecosystem services they rely upon. If our past is to be anything other than our prologue, effective laws and policies will need to recognize and respond to the physical and social factors that subject people and communities to future flood damages, especially in a climate-challenged world facing significant changes in the timing, location, and impacts of storms.

Floodplain management and land use decisions are major drivers of flood losses. Public policy choices, particularly federal flood policy and law, may be well intentioned but they have significant unintended consequences. As a nation, we enable and even encourage improvident floodplain development in at least three ways. First, for well over a century, we have been building ever higher and sturdier levees and encouraging people to put their faith in them. But there are only two kinds of levees—those that have failed and those that will fail—and as the Association of Floodplain Managers warns, “Building in the floodplain is like pitching your tent on the highway ... when there are no cars coming.” Next, we have exacerbated this false sense of security with ill-designed and under-enforced, federally subsidized flood insurance programs. The third rail of this often fatal trilogy is the Fifth Amendment takings doctrine, which makes regulators fearful of adapting historic floodplain management approaches.

Some adaptations have begun, however, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. As a nation, a strong commitment to legal reform is imperative to empower officials at all institutional levels to make proactive decisions that restrict unsustainable development and that protect and restore vulnerable communities. Strategies include: (1) revising the decision-making metrics for federal flood control projects; (2) reforming the National Flood Insurance Program both to keep people out of harm’s way and to place the costs of flooding on those who choose to engage in risky behavior; and (3) recalibrating the takings doctrine to encompass the related concepts of the public trust doctrine, public nuisance, and “givings” (barring or reducing awards for parcels that have enjoyed substantial government benefits). As Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and the recent floods on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have demonstrated, there is no time to wait.

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Time Event
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Panel Discussion on Faith and Climate Change

Room 171 (Reading Room)

Bond Life Sciences Center

The debate on climate change and environmentalism has taken on a faith-based component in recent years, with very public calls from some religious leaders to steward the earth (for example the 2015 Papal Encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home). Representatives of several local faiths and scholars of religious studies discuss how theology, belief, and/or faith-based practice shape perspectives on climate and environmental practice.

  • Maysa Albarcha—Islamic Speakers Bureau of St. Louis
  • Cliff Cain, Ph.D.—Professor of Religious Studies, Westminster College
  • Reverend H. Knute Jacobson—Calvary Episcopal Church, Columbia
  • Linda Pluschke—Show Me Dharma
  • Jame Schaefer, Ph.D.—Associate Professor of Theology, Marquette University
  • Rabbi Dale Schreiber—Jewish Care Coordinator, Pathways Hospice and Palliative Care
  • Jan Weaver, Ph.D.—Executive Director, Missouri Environmental Education Association

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Time Event
5:30 pm

Film Screening: Merchants of Doubt

Ragtag Cinema

Followed by discussion with Mike Urban (MU Department of Geography) and Sara Shipley Hiles (MU School of Journalism).

Inspired by the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt is a thought-provoking documentary (directed by Robert Kenner, 2014) that takes audiences on a satirically comedic and illuminating journey into the heart of climate change skepticism. The film first traces the use of public relations tactics developed by the tobacco industry to protect their business from research about the health risks of smoking, tactics that successfully delayed government regulation. The film then shows how those same tactics — the sleight of hand involved in spreading maximum confusion — are being employed today to forestall governmental action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in response to global climate change.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Time Event
12:00 - 1:30 pm

Panel Discussion on Conservation in the Anthropocene

Adams Conference Center

MU School of Veterinary Medicine

Anthropogenic (human-caused) changes to the environment are fundamentally transforming the goals and practices of conservation. Representatives from a range of conservation agencies discuss their experiences of the challenges of working amidst shifting socioenvironmental conditions.

Monday, March 14, 2016 - Thursday, March 31, 2016

Time Event
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Library Exhibit - Winds of Change: Climate and Weather from Antiquity to the Present

Ellis Library Colonnade