A Look at the Past, Present and Future of Environmental Law 

DALLAS (April 27, 2020) – EarthxLaw was presented on Earth Day and streamed virtually at Earthx2020 in partnership with the National Geographic Society.  The conference included a brief overview of the progress we’ve made over the past 50 years and then focused on selected environmental issues of immediate concern – relating to the quality of our drinking water and the challenges of climate change – and discussed innovative approaches for addressing environmental issues more broadly.


The Symposium had been planned to be a full-day event with sessions on water, public and private lands, the challenges of climate change, and the future of environmental law – with speakers representing a diverse range of perspectives. EarthX is planning to hold that same event on October 22, “Half Earth Day” should the circumstances permit. Instead, to celebrate the 50thAnniversary of Earth Day, it presented a 90-minute virtual program,which drew over 1300 registrants – reaching a broader audience than the in-person program traditionally has.


This condensed program included an EPA Update, from EPA Region 6 Regional Administrator Ken McQueen, and a series of conversations betweenspeakers:


  • Seth Seigel, NY Times bestselling author of Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink, and Brent Fewell, Founder, Earth and Water Law Group, on the topic of our drinking water
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Pam Giblin of the Climate Leadership Council, on the challenges of climate change
  • Yale Professor Dan Esty, editor of  A Better Planet: Forty Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future, and John C. Cruden, Principal, Beveridge & Diamond and former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Department of Justice.


Ken McQueen shared highlights from the EPA, including the improvement of water quality in the US over the last 50 years as well as the significant drop in lead contamination in small children. This triggered a series of discussions amongst speakers about how much more there is to be done, and how to do so.


Seigel and Fewell discussed needed improvements in drinking water, but also the fact that there may be other areas of concern that we need to identify. Giblin discussed with Senator Whitehouse the challenges of climate change and possible approaches for addressing them, and then Cruden and Etsy discussed the future of environmental law and market-based approaches for addressing issues of concern.


The Symposium organizers hoped that this virtual program would foster a dialogue among diverse perspectives that might result in the identification of points on which there might be consensus, and a range of paths forward to inspire people and organizations to take action towards a more sustainable future worldwide.  The lively presentations, with interactive closing remarks of all the panelists, seemed to take a step in that direction and have been posted online via EarthXfor those who missed them.  Moreover, EarthX will be providing an online forumfor continuing dialogue on these and other topics.


The undeniable message from EarthxLaw was the importance of progression and innovation. The conference concluded with a discussion, led by moderator, Jeff Civins of Haynes and Boone, among all the participants about lessons learned and how we might best move forward in addressing environmental concerns.


In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Earthx2020 convened virtually as EarthX and The National Geographic Society partnered to shine a light on the critical issues facing our planet.  The world’s largest environmental event streamed live conferences, its film festival and youth programming online from April 16-26, exploring sustainable solutions to today’s most pressing environmental challenges, through inspiring conversation, creative storytelling and interactive experiences.