During the 2001–02 academic year, I lived in China, teaching U.S. civil rights law and helping to start a labor law clinic. My first day of teaching the fall civil rights course was the day of the September 11 attacks, and that event and reactions to it played a dominant role in my experience of that year. However, it was also a particularly interesting year to be in China from an environmental-energy perspective because the Three Gorges Dam was in the process of being built and brought onlie. At that point, the area was partially flooded and it was one of the last years that one could take a standard boat ride through the area. I took a Chinese cruise ship to look at the site—quite an experience that included an almost non-stop speaker directing my daily activities—and also visited the Three Gorges Dam tourist center and a resettled village. I had a number of quiet conversations with people in that village about how the project was affecting their lives. The Three Gorges Dam provides a particularly dramatic example of the complex value choices at the environment-energy interface that are the focus of this essay. In the panel discussion from which this essay emerges, we were asked to assess anthropocentric, biocentric, and ecocentric values at the environment-health interface. However, in the context of the dam, the value conflicts are not found so much in the comparative valuation of humans, species, and ecosystems, but rather in the difficult choices among energy sources that have significant benefits and externalities.
Hari M. Osofsky,
Complex Value Choices at the Environment-Energy Interface,
Mich. J. Envtl. & Admin. L.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mjeal/vol3/iss2/4