Interview
John E. Bonine, J.D., B.B. Kliks Professor at the School of Law, University of Oregon, USA 2012-05-14 John E. Bonine, J.D., B.B. Kliks Professor at the School of Law, University of Oregon, USA

Dear Mr. John Bonine *,

We are pleased to share with You several questions we have prepared for You within our first effort to pass an interview for the purpose of publication in the e-newsletter of the Law Research Centre of Yerevan State University, Faculty of Law and official Newspaper of YSU. Thanks in advance and we are hopeful that you will enjoy this e-conversation. 

1. Being a specialist in law how you will shortly estimate the efficiency of legal regulation of environmental protection in the US and on the international level since its development compared with other branches of legislation.

Legal regulation of environmental problems is very advanced in both the United States and the European Union.  At the international level, some aspects are advanced (for example, the Aarhus Public Participation Convention – in Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia). 

However, having advanced legislation is not sufficient.  Government enforcement is weak in many countries and pressures from business interests constantly work against protection of the environment.  Independent, non-governmental legal organizations like Environment-People-Law in Ukraine, the Western Environmental Law Center in the United States, and the Environmental Public Advocacy Center in Armenia are vital parts of a system of environmental regulation. 

It was the great vision of Professor Svitlana Kravchenko* that there must be citizen enforcement of the environmental laws.  Her establishment of the first Environmental Public Advocacy Center (EPAC) in Ukraine became the model for similar efforts in Armenia and elsewhere.  It is difficult to find funding for such efforts, however.  In my opinion, external funders like the EU and its institutions can get better results from supporting initiatives such as EPACs than by funneling all of their financial resources directly to governments.

2. Development trends of International Environmental Law mainly express actual needs of modern society and in this regard they are dynamic. Do you consider that natural disasters and their consequences, such as the recent ones in Japan, may serve as signals for essential changes on the level of International environmental law?

The radiation release in Japan was not a natural disaster.  The tsunami and earthquake were natural disasters, but the nuclear disaster was entirely man-made.  Putting a nuclear plant in an unsafe location and failing to have adequate safety features is not an “act of God” but an act of idiocy.

I do not expect such disasters alone to lead to necessary changes in international or domestic environmental laws, unfortunately.  Change requires that citizens and their organizations use the occasion to lobby governments to make such changes.  Without political and legal action by citizens, nothing will happen.  A famous anthropologist, Dr. Margaret Mead, once wrote: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  That is certainly true.

3. We consider that so many resources have already been spent on environmental protection all over the world. Do you think that we were able to keep the balance between the resources spent and the goals achieved?   

The resources spent on environmental protection provide benefits that are far more than their costs.  They make progress toward the goals of environmental protection and limit the damage the industrial development causes.  The benefits are both economic and moral.  Economically, environmental protection leads to lower costs in public health and the high benefits of a less degraded environment.  Morally, saving the environment for our grandchildren is simply the right thing to do.

4. Almost every day the world is witness of numerous environmental actions taken in different parts of our planet. How would you estimate real input of such events in the light of general goal of environment protection?

Public demonstrations in favor of the environment are useful to demonstrate to politicians that people want this to be a priority.  But those same demonstrators need to be seen in the halls of parliaments and the courtrooms of each country, where real decisions are made.

5. Imagine you are going to deliver a lecture for ordinary citizens of a small country such as the Republic of Armenia. What will be the subject of the lecture and why?

“The Future of Armenian Children Is in Your Hands.” Our children and grandchildren cannot protect the health and beauty of a country if we have destroyed them.  Although Armenian history comes from a glorious past, Armenia itself has simply been borrowed from its grandchildren.  It must be delivered to them in a better environmental condition than it has been for the current adult generation.  Adults have a solemn obligation to pass on to the next generation something better, not something more degraded.

6. Is there any kind of issue to which John Bonine as a scientist and ordinary citizen has diverse approaches or opinions? How do you overcome these situations? (Not only related to the environmental protection.)

John Bonine as a scientist uses his head.  John Bonine as an ordinary citizen uses his heart and soul.  Neither can function without the other – but surely the heart is the organ that should tell the head what to do, and the soul is what should rule both. 

At the end of life, you will not look at your bank account.  You will look at what you did for your family, your country, and the world.  And it is best if you can be satisfied that every week you did something good.

7. If you had an opportunity to advice on strengthening environmental law enforcement practice in Armenia,  which question will be prioritized by you?

Support for citizen organizations, especially in the legal sphere.

8. You have traveled to many countries, including Armenia. Could you please share your impressions about our country in a few words?

Armenia’s mountains and valleys are among the most beautiful on Earth.  Armenia’s people are among the warmest in their hearts.  My wife brought me to Armenia because of her life-long friendship with Professor Iskoyan, a giant among environmental legal experts.  For that, I shall be forever grateful – and I hope to return to Armenia as soon as possible, to spend some time with the next generation of environmental protectors!

*John E. Bonine, J.D., is the B.B. Kliks Professor at the School of Law, University of Oregon.  He was proud to be asked by his wife, Svitlana Kravchenko, to be co-author of her book, Human Rights and the Environment (Carolina Academic Press), and of this article, but insists that its vision and approach are attributable to Dr. Kravchenko.  Professor Bonine is co-founder of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (www.elaw.org), of the world's first Environmental Law Clinic (now operating through the Western Environmental Law Center — www.westernlaw.org), and of the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conferences (www.pielc.org) (now in their 30th year).  He is also founder of ENVLAWPROFESSORS, a discussion list founded 20 years ago and used today by 500 professors around the world, and of a network of U.S. public interest environmental lawyers.  Prior to beginning his academic career in 1978, Professor Bonine served as Associate General Counsel for Air, Noise, and Solid Waste of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

** Svitlana Kravchenko, J.D., Ph.D., S.J.D., was Professor at the School of Law, University of Oregon.  She was the Founder and the Director of Oregon's LL.M. Program in Environmental and Natural Resources Law.   Before moving to Oregon in 2001, Dr. Kravchenko was a faculty member at L'viv National University in Ukraine for 29 years, educating and inspiring generations of law students with her passionate teaching.  Her academic record as author of nearly 200 articles and a dozen books (in English, Ukrainian, and Russian) was matched by her insistence that professors and students could go outside the classroom and play a practical role in the development of environmental law and democracy.  She acted as a role model for lawyers and citizen activists throughout Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia.  She founded and served as President of the most successful public interest environmental law firm in the region – Екологія-Право-Людина (ЕПЛ) (Environment-People-Law) in L'viv,Ukraine (www.epl.org.ua).  Professor Kravchenko's influence reached far beyond her native country and region – indeed around the world.  She was the longest serving member of the quasi-adjudicatory Compliance Committee of the United Nations Aarhus Convention in Geneva, Switzerland, and was its elected Vice-Chair.  She was Regional Governor, International Council of Environmental Law, and an active participant in the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide.  Her generous spirit and kindness sparked an outpouring of grief, remembrances, and honors from every continent upon her sudden death in February 2012.  This article is her last major scholarly effort.  To carry on her vision and work, Professor Kravchenko's family has established the Svitlana Kravchenko International Award for Human Rights and the Environment.
 

Questions have been prepared by  Ms. Heghin Hakhverdyan, Ms. Mane Madoyan and Mr. Gor Movsisyan.