Friday, June 12, 2015

No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund

An idea I had years ago got called out recently by Richard Louv, author of Last Child In the Woods. Louv was mad about a little girl being forced by city regulators to tear down a treehouse and he remembered something I'd written:

In 2006 [actually 2007 -ed.], an environmental lawyer named Brian Schmidt started thinking about nature-deficit disorder and came up with a novel idea, which he shared in his blog: “Set up a legal foundation that pays the legal defense costs of institutions and individuals who bring children outdoors and then [are] hit with frivolous lawsuits.” In the 2008 update to “Last Child in the Woods,” I passed along Schmidt’s idea, and suggested calling it the No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund.

At the outset, the fund would defend people “against the claims that would have established the worst precedents or had the worst potential impact,” he said, in an email. “The fund would support “all or part of defendant’s legal costs afterwards,” if the defendants did not settle the case. “Regardless of how successful this idea could become, it will never cover all the costs of defending against all lawsuits. Still it could help, and just the fact that a defendant knew it was possible to recover costs might make the defendant less likely to settle".....

Who would pay for such a fund? How about trail lawyers and other attorneys, through donations and pro bono services. Many are genuinely concerned about the growth of litigiousness and the kind of regulation enforcement that can give good regulations — the kind that fight corporate polluters for example — a bad name.

“I also expect that businesses that support the outdoors would be interested in funding the foundation,” added Schmidt. He said he was just tossing “this idea out into the Googleable universe, with the additional mention that I’d be willing to put in some of my own money or time as a lawyer if the idea goes anywhere.”
I wrote a little more here.

Louv matched this idea with conservative Charles Murray's wish for a legal organization that challenges onerous government regulations. I can't say I'm a fan of Murray, but I think there are some government regulations that enviros would like to see challenged, like mandatory off-street parking requirements. I've also thought for a long time that zoning should either be aimed at high density or low density, not the in-between density that afflicts suburbia, and high density means lifting restrictions on uses.

For what it's worth, maybe something will happen with all this.


Side note:  a Quora thread on what fossil fuel company employees think of their own role in climate change. Interesting to see different levels of denial, even from people who's deny their in denial about climate change.

8 comments:

Andy S said...

I don't think the low density thing works; at least here in the U.S. as it appears there are now enough upper middle class households to exhaust all of the country's acreage for ranchette construction. The greater acceptance of an urban life style coupled with nearby, accessible, quality wildlands, I think is the best way to address the low level of nature experiences.

EliRabett said...

All a kid needs in the densest city is a bike and a park.

Brian said...

If I were in charge I'd have urban/suburban densities start at 10 residences per acre and go up from there, and on the other side of the line I would zone at 1 residence per 10 acres and go down in density from there. Density in between is the wasteland - not dense enough to provide services that make it walkable, but too dense for farming and with minimal wildlife value.

Half acre lots are the worst of all worlds.

There are other ways to skin the cat - per Eli, make sure there's open space even in dense cities. You could also have 60 homes on 30 acres, but cluster the homes on 10 acres and hold the rest in private open space or lease it out for farming.

John said...

Comment on "side note":

There are no fossil fuel companies without the consumers who buy the fossil fuels.

The only thing worse that fossil fuel companies' internal "denial deniers" are the consumers of their products who are too oblivious even to deny their critical complicity in the problem.

John Puma

Matt M said...

re side note

top comment starts of with "Transport fuel is just as important to society as food, ...". hmmm. and that is one of the better answers

Hank Roberts said...

> trail lawyers

:-)

I think it's a brilliant idea. I've been musing for a few decades about the many "empty lots" that are full of wildlife, left alone by someone who remembers or rediscovered Thoreau's observation that our wealth is measured by what we can leave alone.

Many of us old folks have ownership of some parcel of land that's been turning out plants and bugs and birds and small mammals year after year and -- if you value wildlife production for an infinite time as infinitely valuable -- has no place in our economy, and little or no protection. Land trusts are about the only bet going for those.

Possibly related, as an idea for a framework:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v436/n7052/full/436888a.html
Nature 436, 888 (11 August 2005) | doi:10.1038/436888a;
Published online 10 August 2005
Prometheus unbound, at last
Kim Stanley Robinson

Dano said...

I've lived in all kinds of land-use densities. There is a substantial fraction of the population that simply will not live in the city unless forced to. There is no way to entice them to do so. There is also a substantial fraction that won't live in the country either. One must also remember that for many, different life stages may make one prefer different land-use types if income allows it.

That is: if given a choice and an ability to act on that choice, not everyone will prefer density.

Jus' sayin.

Best,

D

Brian said...

You've got a point Dano. Many of the people who'd refuse to live in cities couldn't afford 10 acre lots. Skin the cat differently then, per my comment above. What I don't see is why society needs to provide these people with endless half-acre lots.