A Call for Bipartisanship on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and a Solution

By Julie Axelrod on April 23, 2020

April 22, 2020, marked the 50th celebration of Earth Day. Every year on Earth Day, the environmental non-profit EarthX holds a great event in Dallas. For several years, I have been going to Dallas and enjoying the opportunity to see the world's largest environmental conference and meet sustainability leaders and activists from all over the country. This year, because of Covid-19, the EarthX conference is being held online, and I have been attending events virtually.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched EarthX's Law and Policy Symposium, a "Look at the Past, Present, and Future of Environmental Law", which, in light of my interest in the future of environmental law as counsel in a groundbreaking immigration-related environmental lawsuit, I was eager to watch. One of the subjects that came up in the panel was the importance of greater bipartisanship in future environmental law and legislation.

One of the panelists was Daniel Esty, the Hilllhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and clinical professor of Environmental Law & Policy at Yale Law School. Esty made a point of emphasizing that the future success of the environmental movement depends on being able to appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. He pointed out that the environmental laws of the early 1970's were widely supported by both parties, but today, Democrats and Republicans tend to line up on different sides of environmental laws. The problem, he pointed out, is that lasting victories depend on bipartisanship. He also called for an acknowledgment that we must bring an end to "negative externalities", where companies are able to spread the costs of their business model onto the public through environmental harm, but reap the profits themselves.

I thought Esty's point was well taken. I also think the environmental movement, to return to its early days when it was supported by both Democrats and Republicans, should recognize that one of its founding issues gets a great deal of support from Republicans already. Environmentalists were once very concerned about the harms of unsustainable population growth in the United States and, accordingly, believed that the environmental impacts of immigration to the United States should be discussed. Today, among the environmental movement, discussing the environmental impact of immigration is verboten. Yet the companies that profit from high levels of legal and illegal immigration, but impose the costs of this immigration on the public, present an ideal example of a negative externality that the public should no longer countenance. If the environmental movement would recognize immigration as an environmental issue, we would all benefit. The Center for Immigration Studies, by filing lawsuits under the environmental laws and submitting comments on the ongoing overhauls of environmental regulations, is trying to make this discussion a reality.