Other Symposium Events
March 7-31, 2016
Monday, March 7th, 2016
Sandra B. Zellmer
Facing Floods and Climate Change While Reforming Disaster Law
Room 7, Hulston Hall
MU School of Law
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
|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.
Monday, March 14th, 2016
Film Screening: Merchants of Doubt
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
|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
|8:00 am - 5:00 pm||
Library Exhibit - Winds of Change: Climate and Weather from Antiquity to the Present
Ellis Library Colonnade