W103 | United States Environmental Law: Its Historic Past, Its Uncertain Future | Philip McKnight

Wednesdays 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. | 5 Sessions
; 9/20, 9/27, 10/4, 10/11, 10/18
In-person at Williams College
Limit: 50

Taught from the perspective of an experienced trial attorney, this course will examine the role environmental law plays in the United States today, in light of how that role has developed during the fifty years since the modern era of environmental law began. We will also consider the reasons why the law's early application in the first half of the 20th century focused almost exclusively on the conservation and preservation of natural resources and after the 1970s, took a markedly different approach, one emphasizing pollution control and all but ignoring resource conservation. The course will begin by tracing the development of an American consciousness towards the environment through an examination of our law and our literature, using over fifty slides of paintings, sculptures and five music excerpts to help tell the story, emphasizing what is possible to achieve in the litigator's real world as informed by what the academician would present from the security of the classroom. We will examine the historical and legal choices we as Americans have made which have put our environment on trial. Our journey begins with the Puritans of New England and the planters of Virginia and their predecessors in the New World and then moves swiftly through our confrontation with the frontier and westward travel over the next 300 years to the beginning of the modern era in environmental law and to its now uncertain future. A course packet will be distributed during the first class for those who want to review the documents to be discussed in succeeding classes.

Philip R. McKnight, Esq., J.D. (Williams '65, The University of Chicago Law School ’68), is a trial and appellate attorney. At Williams he completed the honors program for both American History and Literature and European History. He earned his law degree from The University of Chicago Law School and then practiced in the state and federal courts of New York and Connecticut, as well as in Europe. He is a frequent OLLI lecturer on the subjects of environmental law and environmental history, Shakespeare and the law, and the role of the law in American democracy.

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