13 episodes

Law professor at the University of Virginia 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 • 3 Ratings

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

    Madison Condon on Climate and Corporate Governance

    Madison Condon on Climate and Corporate Governance

    On this episode of Free Range with Mike Livermore, Mike speaks with Boston University School of Law professor Madison Condon about the interaction between corporate governance and environmental concerns. Condon has written extensively on how corporations are changing their approach to the environment in the face of climate change issues and the rise of ESG investing, which incorporates Environmental, Social, and Governance considerations into larger investment strategies.

    The conversation starts off with a discussion of the influence of massive investment funds like BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street in the world of corporate governance. These funds are so large that they are now capable of exerting considerable influence over corporate decisions. Condon introduces the concept of Universal Owner theory in the corporate world: institutional investors have such diversified portfolios that it is now in their best interests to care about the environment (1:04 – 7:18). This leads into an analysis of activist investment fund Engine No. 1 which, in 2021, engaged in a successful proxy battle to gain seats on ExxonMobil’s board of directors. Condon also touches on broader questions of whether the strategy employed by Engine No. 1 to win the proxy battle opens the door for potential antitrust violations, and the benefits and drawbacks of shareholder primacy. Expanding on these questions, Livermore and Condon discuss a hypothetical situation in which an institutional investment fund acts to benefit itself at the expense of a company’s continued existence, and what this behavior might implicate more generally (8:40 – 21:50). Condon then talks about one of the potential outcomes of activist investment — a rise in shareholder derivative suits alleging that boards have breached their fiduciary duties. This part of the conversation hits on various aspects of corporate law, including the scope of the business judgment rule and the significance of Delaware in America’s corporate legal regime (23:43 – 31:45). The conversation then shifts to a discussion of the divestment movement as a strategy to influence corporate behavior in the environmental context, the way corporations have engaged in greenwashing in response to the divestment movement’s demands, and the rise of ESG in corporate decision-making (31:51 – 48:52). The conversation concludes with Condon clarifying her position regarding just how influential investment funds can actually be in affecting action to slow climate change (50:21 – 55:30).

    Professor Michael Livermore is the Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also the Director of the Program in Law, Communities and the Environment (PLACE), an interdisciplinary program based at UVA Law that examines the intersection of legal, environmental, and social concerns.

    • 56 min
    Willis Jenkins on the Humanities and Environmental Change

    Willis Jenkins on the Humanities and Environmental Change

    On this episode of Free Range, Mike Livermore speaks with Willis Jenkins, the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics and Chair of the University of Virginia’s Department of Religious Studies. In an enlightening conversation that flows from the nature of the humanities to the way in which concerns about access to water are thought about within the academy, Jenkins explains how his work brings together three distinct but connected concepts: religion, ethics, and the environment.

    This wide-ranging conversation begins with both Livermore and Jenkins questioning the strange space the humanities occupies within academia, with both suggesting that perhaps the phrase is not fit for purpose (:43 – 4:52). Providing an example of just how interdisciplinary the humanities has become, Jenkins then discusses a project he is involved with as part of UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute. The project examines the central problem of water security, and Jenkins explains what that means, why it is important, and how the group attempts to reconcile the different interests and values that weigh on society’s water demands (5:30 – 16:10). The discussion then flows (pun intended!) into a conversation about the difficulties that scientists are confronted with when they are asked to provide objective answers to fundamentally subjective questions, whether the “trust the science” approach is the best option for a cohesive society, and whether democracies can survive climate change (16:25 – 27:24). The focus then shifts to a different project Jenkins is working on, the Coastal Futures Conservatory, which combines the arts, the humanities, and scientific analysis in order to better understand the effects of climate change. Jenkins talks about a number of the Conservatory’s various projects, including the creation of sound installations in an abandoned coastal hotel on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the incorporation of indigenous story-telling, and the conversion of data inputs into acoustic recordings. This, in turn, leads to questions about how societies will process the inevitable losses, of territory and of culture, that will occur as a result of climate change (27:30 – 43:10). The final project Jenkins discusses is Sanctuary Lab, a multidisciplinary program that examines the effect climate change will have on sacred spaces, and how the cultural traditions associated with those spaces can be preserved in the future (43:40 – 53:40). The conversation concludes with Jenkins briefly explaining the intersection of religion and the environment in the context of contemporary American politics (54:00 – 1:00:37).

    Professor Michael Livermore is the Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also the Director of the Program in Law, Communities and the Environment (PLACE), an interdisciplinary program based at UVA Law that examines the intersection of legal, environmental, and social concerns.

    • 1 hr
    Lee Buchheit and Mitu Gulati on Debt-for-Nature Deals

    Lee Buchheit and Mitu Gulati on Debt-for-Nature Deals

    On this episode of Free Range, Mike Livermore speaks with sovereign debt experts Lee Buchheit and Mitu Gulati. Buchheit is a retired partner at international law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, whose practice centers on international debt restructuring and project finance. He has worked on more than two dozen sovereign debt restructuring deals, including leading the team that advised the Greek government during its 2012 debt crisis. Mitu Gulati is the John V. Ray Research Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. In addition to his academic work, he is the host of Clauses and Controversies, a podcast which examines the intersection of international finance and contract law.

    To start off, Buchheit and Gulati provide a bit of background into their careers and how the field of sovereign debt restructuring re-emerged in the 1980s, fifty years after it first appeared in the wake of the Great Depression. Buchheit then provides a detailed explanation of what, exactly, sovereign debt is, how it functions on the international stage, and its advantages and drawbacks, and then describes the kinds of circumstances that can cause nations to seek to restructure their debts (1:15 – 21:22). Continuing on from this, Buchheit explains the sovereign debt restructuring process, like the one Greece went through in the early 2010s, when the situation was so dire that some even suggested Greece sell the Acropolis (22:10 – 27:40). The conversation then shifts to analyzing broader questions about the current structure of global debt, and the potential sovereign debt crisis that looms over the global economy (28:52 – 41:00). The podcast concludes with a long discussion about a recent debt restructuring deal Buchheit worked on for the government of Belize, which incorporated certain environmental conservation goals as conditions of the restructuring. The specifics of the deal lead Gulati and Livermore to raise questions about whether sovereign debt contributes to economic disparities between the Global North and Global South (42:00 – 1:20:18).

    Professor Michael Livermore is the Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also the Director of the Program in Law, Communities and the Environment (PLACE), an interdisciplinary program based at UVA Law that examines the intersection of legal, environmental, and social concerns.

    • 1 hr 21 min
    Camilo Sanchez on Human Rights and the Environment

    Camilo Sanchez on Human Rights and the Environment

    On today’s episode, Mike Livermore speaks with Assistant Professor Camilo Sánchez, the Director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic. Their conversation covers everything from Latin American history to the intersection of constitutional law and international law. These threads come together in the Guapinol Case, one of the clinic’s major projects. In that matter, Professor Sánchez and his students collaborate with international organizations to advocate on behalf of a group of eight illegally-detained environmental defenders in Honduras.

    The conversation begins with Professor Sánchez talking about his background and what sparked his interest in international law (00:40 – 2:40). Professor Sánchez explains the importance of international law in the Latin American context, and describes how domestic politics and international law interact with each other in the region (2:45 – 10:35). The discussion examines the intersection of human rights and environmental law issues by looking at the work being done by UVA Law’s International Human Rights Clinic in the Guapinol Case (10:45 – 29:00). Livermore and Sánchez discuss environmental rights in constitutional and international law. Professor Sánchez describes and summarizes three distinct approaches to this idea: philosophical, legal, and practical, and then explains how rights litigation has played a role in establishing norms that allow for distinct commercial and social interests to coexist (29:53 – 49:45). The conversation concludes with an affirmation of the importance of cooperation between legislatures and courts to ensure development that is sustainable and equitable (50:35 – 1:04:30).

    Professor Michael Livermore is the Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also the Director of the Program in Law, Communities and the Environment (PLACE), an interdisciplinary program based at UVA Law that examines the intersection of legal, environmental, and social concerns.

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Deborah Lawrence on Forests and the Climate

    Deborah Lawrence on Forests and the Climate

    On this episode of Free Range, Mike Livermore speaks with Dr. Deborah Lawrence, a Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, about her research on land use and the connection between deforestation and climate change. In this discussion, Lawrence provides an in-depth explanation of the role forests play in affecting the global climate and then discusses how climate scientists use mathematical modeling to project the future of climate change.

    Professor Lawrence begins by describing how she developed her interdisciplinary approach to studying land use, which she calls “Food, Fuels and Forests” (2:30 – 5:30). This approach recognizes that the surface of the earth is a finite good, so the decision to use a part of it for one thing necessarily means it is not being used for another. Lawrence and Livermore then discuss the current state of carbon capture technology (5:55 – 13:25). Professor Lawrence explains that one of the fundamental flaws in most climate change models is the fact that almost every model relies on carbon capture and sequestration technology that is either unproven (direct air capture) or prohibitively expensive (like BECCS – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage). The conversation then shifts to a discussion of the importance of forests in relation to climate change on both a global and local scale, with Professor Lawrence offering a detailed explanation of the process through which forests cool the planet (15:00 – 24:15). Lawrence then explains the role of modeling in climate change science, generally, and in her work specifically (24:30 – 44:35). Finally, Professor Lawrence provides insight into her research on land use, how land use decisions fit within the broader considerations of climate change science, and the benefits of approaching land use questions from a multidisciplinary perspective (45:00 – 59:45).


    Professor Michael Livermore is the Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also the Director of the Program in Law, Communities and the Environment (PLACE), an interdisciplinary program based at UVA Law that examines the intersection of legal, environmental, and social concerns.

    • 59 min
    Ithai Rabinowitch on Engineering the Brain

    Ithai Rabinowitch on Engineering the Brain

    An Interview with Ithai Rabinowitch, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    • 1 hr 1 min

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