63 episodes

Law professor interviewing a wide range of guests on topics in law, politics, philosophy, science, the environment, and AI.

Free Range with Mike Livermore Free Range with Mike Livermore

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 12 Ratings

Law professor interviewing a wide range of guests on topics in law, politics, philosophy, science, the environment, and AI.

    S2E24: Adam Ortiz on Life as an EPA Regional Administrator

    S2E24: Adam Ortiz on Life as an EPA Regional Administrator

    On this episode of Free Range, host Mike Livermore is joined by Adam Ortiz, the MidAtlantic regional administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The conversation begins with a discussion of the role of a regional administrator at EPA. Ortiz emphasizes the importance of federal agencies working with local and state governments due to the complexity of environmental issues. He also discusses some of the specific challenges of the MidAtlantic: it is a coastal region with a rich industrial past; an agricultural region; and, a region where resource extraction has been prevalent. Taken together, the diversity of histories, industries, and geographies make the MidAtlantic a fascinating and challenging region for environmental governance.

    The topic switches to environmental justice-related work and an ongoing Superfund cleanup in the city of Baltimore clean-up. The two discuss the value of redeveloping areas that experienced environmental damage in the past, especially given the concentration of these sites along lines of race and class. Ortiz discusses EPA’s efforts to identify and clean up these sites to “plug them back into society.” There is a large human component to this kind of work, and Ortiz emphasizes the importance of giving communities a voice and encouraging open, honest dialogue with residents. This is one of the main ways the EPA addresses the negative impacts of redevelopment, such as gentrification. They go on to discuss how EPA works with state and local actors on complex projects with many overlapping jurisdictions. (0:28-34:30)

    The conversation shifts to the ways Ortiz’s department works to support indigenous tribes. The EPA works with tribes to support their sovereignty, protect their land, and help facilitate their capacity for environmental governance. Livermore then inquires about the Chesapeake Bay, a body of water that has been of great concern to the EPA in recent years. Water quality has been improved overall, although progress hasn’t been linear, and EPA has only limited authority as a federal agency. Because of this, pollution control falls heavily on nearby states, and Ortiz points to recent efforts by the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    The conversation turns to the intersection of politics and environmental governance at the regional level. Livermore asks whether regional governance faces less political polarization, and Ortiz observes that, compared to the national level, regional interactions are often less politicized. Ortiz praises a personal approach to solving complex issues, asserting the effectiveness of working with people directly and getting to know them personally. Additionally, there is a local advantage when it comes to political support for environmental initiatives, because people tend to care about places they interact with, regardless of political affiliation. (34:31-1:01:09)

    • 1 hr 1 min
    S2E23: SFI Working Group on Biodiversity

    S2E23: SFI Working Group on Biodiversity

    This bonus episode is an impromptu roundtable discussion that was part of a working group at the Santa Fe Institute in February 2024 on biodiversity and the sustainable development goals.

    The Santa Fe Institute is an interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to the study of complex adaptive systems. It was founded in 1984 by a group of scientists, many affiliated with with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. SFI host a range of gatherings at different scales, form public conferences to small working groups.

    This working group was organized by two SFI affiliated scholars: Andy Dobson who is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, an evolutionary anthropologist who is at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They group included scholars and practitioners from the social and behavioral sciences, conservation biology and ecology and law. The focus on the group was the question of how to jumpstart progress on halting biodiversity loss in the context of the the UN sustainable development goals.

    The conversation in this podcast is with several members in the working group. The others in the conversation were Liam Smith, an expert in behavioral change and the director of BehaviorWorks Australia at Monash University; Tim O’Brien, an ecologist who worked for decades at the Wildlife Conservation Society; Margaret Kinnaird, an ecologist and the Global Wildlife Practice Leader at the World Wildlife Fund for Nature – International; Matt Turner, a post-doc and expert on computational modeling at the Stanford School of Sustainability; and Tim Caro, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Bristol.

    • 36 min
    S2E22: In Memoriam, Dick Stewart and the Reformation of U.S. Environmental Law

    S2E22: In Memoriam, Dick Stewart and the Reformation of U.S. Environmental Law

    Free Range is launching a Patreon page to continue the podcast. If would like to support the podcast, visit patreon.com/user?u=106202307.

    In this solo episode, host Mike Livermore discusses the career of Dick Stewart, a mentor who was a longtime faculty member at NYU Law who died this past year. Livermore describes two important political developments in the twenty years since he met Stewart: the breakdown a functioning bipartisan coalition on environmental issues, and the decline of the "liberal international" order based on strong transnational institutions, free trade, and expanding human rights. These developments have helped contribute to a "reformation" of U.S. environmental law (a reference to Stewart's famous law review article "The Reformation of American Administrative Law). The summer of 2022 marked the true sea change, with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Supreme Court's West Virginia v. EPA decision.

    Livermore discusses how this reformation has reshaped the emphasis of policy debates over U.S. environmental law. The first is a shift in emphasis from efficiency to distribution. The second is a shift from instrument choice (command-and-control versus market mechanisms) to industrial policy. The third is a shift from questions about administrative governance to a more basic debate of "pro-" versus "anti-" administration. The fourth is a shift from debates about how best to structure cooperative federalism to an ongoing struggle with antagonistic federalism.

    Livermore offers some thoughts on the future grounds for both intra- and inter-party disagreement on U.S. environmental issues. Within the Democratic party, debates between environmentalists, energy developers, and labor unions were suppressed in the lead up to the passage of the IRA, but they have resurfaced in the context of siting reform and individual energy projects. These debates are likely to play an important role within the party in coming years. Within the Republican party, there is an increasing need to expand the party base, especially among younger voters, and the question is whether it is possible to square a more pro-environment approach with the party's new right-wing-populism platform; perhaps via policies such as carbon border adjustments or a cap-and-dividend policy that is pitched as an anti-immigration measure. At the global level, increased nationalism and renewed tension are likely to increase energy competition. While this competition may increase incentives to invest in cleaner sources, an "energy independence" mindset also increases the cost of new technologies (through anti-trade policies) and encourages development of domestic fossil fuel sources.

    Overall, political developments in the past twenty years have dimmed hopes for substantial policies that substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions. But one lesson from the reflections in the podcast is that politics is highly unpredictable, and trends that seem certain now may end up being less stable than they appear.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    S2E21. Cale Jaffe on Environmental Advocacy and Clinical Education

    S2E21. Cale Jaffe on Environmental Advocacy and Clinical Education

    In this episode of the Free Range Podcast, host Michael Livermore is joined by guest Cale Jaffe, director of the Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law. The conversation touches on several key issues in environmental scholarship and pedagogy.

    A theme of the conversation is the relationship between lawyers and communities in environmental disputes. Jaffe argues lawyers must approach communities with humility and truly listen to their goals and concerns. Environmental fights should be led by impacted residents rather than lawyers parachuting in with prescribed legal strategies. Jaffe shares an example opposing a Virginia coal plant where he took a top-down approach that alienated local community members.

    Jaffe’s experience connects to debates within environmental justice scholarship around procedure versus substance. Jaffe emphasizes that inclusive processes must have power - community input should shape project outcomes. Mere listening without willingness to change plans is insufficient. Centering community voice and leadership is critical for just environmental policymaking.

    Livermore and Jaffe also discuss the role of disagreement within the environmental community. Oten, the major groups adopt unified stances to maximize resources and influence. However, these unified stances often mask internal disagreement on issues like nuclear power. There are no easy answers balancing coordination and open dissent.

    In terms of environmental clinical pedagogy, Jaffe aims to develop wisdom in students rather than just technical skills. He stresses genuinely connecting with students as people first. He does so through blending classroom and practical work which helps model community lawyering goals like humility and listening. The Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic allows engagement on varied issues of intellectual and social importance rather than just organizational priorities.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    S2E20. Nicholas Allen on Blue Humanities and Irish Literature

    S2E20. Nicholas Allen on Blue Humanities and Irish Literature

    On this episode of the Free Range Podcast, host Mike Livermore has a conversation with literary scholar Nicholas Allen about his recent book "Ireland, Literature and the Coast: Seatangled".
    The discussion begins with an examination of the book's evocative title. Allen explains that the phrase “seatangled” comes from a scene in James Joyce's “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” where the character Stephen Dedalus looks out at the seaweed shreds in the ocean as he contemplates his future. For Allen, this image captures the ideas of motion, flight, and piecing things together that are central to his analysis of Irish literature through the lens of the sea and coastline.
    The core of the book consists of close readings of authors, artists and specific works related to Irish coastal life and culture. Allen elaborates that he chose works that have long been stuck in his imagination, ranging from an early 20th century novel about a shipping clerk to the coastal maps created by artist Tim Robinson. His aim was not to be comprehensive but rather to
    highlight neglected or forgotten histories and show their continued cultural presence. In discussing his critical approach, Allen emphasizes that he is less interested in making definitive arguments and more interested in creating rhythms and connections that allow readers to see texts differently. He wants to find a descriptive language that conveys sensation and experience without colonizing or containing its subject. This pursuit of openness, empathy and freedom guides his writing.
    The conversation explores how the coast features as both literal place and literary metaphor in the book. Other topics include the creative aspects of literary criticism, the meaning of “critical thinking,” placing Irish literature in a global context, the complications of national literature as a category, and Allen’s surprising archival discoveries while researching the book. Allen illuminates a fluid, interconnected approach to Irish literature that breaks down boundaries and expands perspectives.

    • 59 min
    S2E19. Lisa Robinson on Cost-Benefit Analysis

    S2E19. Lisa Robinson on Cost-Benefit Analysis

    On this episode of Free Range, host Mike Livermore is joined by Lisa Robinson, a senior research scientist and the deputy director at the Center for Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Lisa is a leading expert in the use of cost-benefit analysis to evaluate public policy.

    The conversation begins with a discussion of the use of cost-benefit analysis and its importance in policy making. Robinson describes cost-benefit analysis as a systematic framework to examine policy impacts, which can help inform the choices made by political decision makers. Often, there are substantial uncertainties in analysis, which means that they do not deliver highly precise estimates. That said, the analytic process often generates useful information that can improve a policy. (0:11-5:22)

    The two then discuss controversies surrounding cost-benefit analysis. Controversies include how to value morality risk reduction through tools like the “value of statistical life.” Robinson discusses her view that the term “value of statistical life” is misleading, because actually most rules affect very small risks that are experienced by large populations. Robinson also emphasizes the non-paternalistic nature of cost-benefit analysis, because it is based on how people actually value effects in the world. (5:22-25:56)

    Robinson then describes how cost-benefit analysis has become complex over time which makes it difficult for the public to understand, and therefore analysts need to improve communication with non-experts. There are also empirical challenges surrounding this topic, with rising debates around accounting for distributional effects of this analysis. Often the effects of cost-benefit analysis are unevenly spread, causing issues for disadvantaged groups and enforcing the relevancy of value judgments. Overall, cost-benefit analysis informs decisions but does not dictate them. It provides useful information, but there are limitations such as legal constraints. More work is needed to extend and refine the framework across policy areas. Despite its difficulties, for Robinson, overall cost-benefit analysis contributes to good policy decisions that improve social welfare. (25:56-59:53)

    • 1 hr

Customer Reviews

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12 Ratings

12 Ratings

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A Special Treat

Listening to this new podcast is learning therapy for me on long walks. I get to learn cool new stuff from the leaders in AI thinking - I hope that there are many many more episodes coming.

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