University of South Carolina Law School



Prof. David Linnan



Environmental concerns transcend national borders, but present distinctly different issues to differing groups of countries in an area where "soft" law predominates.  This course looks at the nature of the international law process in this area (with its limited number of treaty and substantive law principles), economic and other perspectives on natural resource usage, state sovereignty and abiding tensions between industrialized and developing countries concerning pollution problems (beyond prohibitions, to technology transfer and the "who pays" question).  Since established law is minimal, this course examines the framework for international environmental law de lege ferenda.  We try to understand differing players' views of the problems, since it is relatively early in the law-making process.


The course is scheduled to meet regularly 15:20-17:30 Tuesdays in Law School Room 334.   We plan on bringing in outside speakers via videoconferencing perhaps two times, mostly during the second half of the course on dates TBA.  You will also be directed to streaming video links on the course website for class preparation, general introductions to technical issues of public international law (e.g., interpreting treaties under the Vienna Convention) and some natural science background (e.g., in the marine area for some problems).  Students are required to view this material outside class, which is why we meet only two hours weekly for a three credit course.


The instructor's e-mail address is  There is no commercial text, and readings will be available normally on the course page ( under the course materials link.  We shall place a hard copy of the materials in the library and, if there is sufficient demand, we can turn a copy in the form of course packets over to a copy shop.  They may also be distributed via the course LISTSERV.  Normally, we shall post instructional materials including problems and class powerpoints on the course website.  However, if time is pressing we shall distribute them via e-mail to the course LISTSERV.  Based on past experience, the class powerpoints will be available on the course website but may also be distributed via the LISTSERV in advance of class since students seem to prefer commenting the presentations in taking their class notes.  We shall be working a variety of problems resulting in student presentations in class, and student groups making such presentations should always distribute their powerpoints to the course LISTSERV.

We have a course LISTSERV ( to keep in touch generally, and for discussions plus asking questions outside of class.  You must join the course LISTSERV to fully participate in this class, since teaching faculty will use it like a bulletin board for announcements about reading assignments, etc. while students and faculty should use it to ask questions and carry on discussions outside normal classes.  For those of you unfamiliar with the LISTSERV concept, a LISTSERV is simply a system in which e-mail communications are sent to a single address and then distributed to all LISTSERV subscribers (e.g., all class members).  Please consult the LISTSERV information page at for general directions, and click on the course webpage class administration link for directions about how to subscribe to the class LISTSERV.


The course commences with a short introduction to public international law principles including the theoretical basis of competing international legal approaches to environmental problems.  We discuss many of the problems as private law or national regulatory matters in the body of the course.  The basic conceptual difficulty is that, while we admittedly have international environmental problems, there is less existing "law" than many people think.  While there are a few treaties, etc., forget about the idea of studying a distinct body of law comparable to the domestic state and federal environmental statutes.  Instead, international environmental law presents itself as a problem for the creation of new law (with the question how best to go about it).  The traditional jobs-for-clean-air kind of trade off is a much greater problem in the international than the domestic setting, to the extent it pits rich "green" nations against poorer ones whose development strategy of choice involves industrialization.  The kinds of problems and trade offs are also not well-suited to rights analysis as applied in many legal areas.  What are the best possible answers where no simple strategies exist reconciling all the interests?


Grading will be based on either (i) a research paper, or (ii) a final exam. Students may choose either assessment option.  With the instructor's permission such research paper may also be structured to satisfy the graduation writing requirement.  Students wishing to write a research paper should talk early and often with the instructor, since you will be required to choose a topic in consultation with the instructor, produce an outline, followed by a first draft and then a final version of the paper.  Note that you must confer with the instructor at least three times in the process: to chose a topic cooperatively, to review your writing outline together, and then for comments between your first draft and the final paper version.


LAWS 666 fall06