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Property & the Environment Seminar (LAW-795-004)
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“Property and the Environment” will be an upper-level property class and also an environmental law offering. The course will give students an opportunity to read and think in a sustained way about the law of property and its relationship to environmental concerns.
The course will be divided into three parts: (i) property and the social or cultural environment, (ii) property and the built environment, and (iii) property and the natural environment. Critical thinking on environmental issues requires engagement with the threshold question of what we mean by “environment,” distinctions among human-centered and non-human centered views of the world, and how it is that we relate to the physical world around us.
Property law is central to our relationship to the environment, however defined. The readings will challenge students to think about both personal and real property and how the law of property shapes the environment and our relationship with it. For example, reading on property and the social environment will include work about personalty and identity formation, drawing on work such as Dick Hebdige’s seminal 1979 book Subculture and the Meaning of Style, along with theories of late capitalism and the planned obsolescence of goods. This reading will challenge students to think about how contemporary social and cultural environments relate to consumption of goods and other personal property. Reading on property and the built environment will include materials on commercial leasing, restrictive covenants, historic preservation easements—property law tools that shape the built environment as we know it. Finally, reading on property and the natural environment will include Eric Freyfogle’s The Land We Share, and other works that delve into conceptions of private property and how property relates to eco-systems.
The aim of the readings will be to generate a wide range of provocative questions about property and the environment for students to draw upon as they formulate their own ideas. The class should disrupt any presumptions that environmental law is just about legal regulation of human impact on natural systems. It will provide an opportunity to focus on the private property law aspect of environmental concern, inviting critical, in-depth consideration of what property is and how it affects what our environment is like.
Textbooks and Other Materials
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First Class Readings
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