Unnatural Disasters: How Law Hurts, How Law Can Help. Sandra Zellmer: Thursdays at Four, Oct. 9, 2014
Unnatural Disasters: How Law Hurts, How Law Can Help
October 9, 2014, at 4:00pm
Crosby Seminar Room, Northrop
Sandra Zellmer, Robert B. Daugherty Professor of Law, University of Nebraska.
It’s seductively deceptive to call floods and other catastrophes “natural.” They are anything but. Storms may well be natural phenomenon, but humans have an uncanny ability to exacerbate their own vulnerability to them by shortsighted engineering projects, undue faith in technology, poor decision-making processes that encourage development in the floodplain, and federal, state, and local subsidies. The acknowledgement of our own responsibility for unnatural disasters can lead to blame and finger-pointing, but it can also prod us to confront the consequences of our actions, leading to the knowledge necessary to avoid future disasters. This, in turn, can stimulate a liberating sense of possibility and opportunity—melding our own social and economic aspirations with the environmental imperatives of water and water bodies. If we acknowledge that at least some disasters are unnatural, not uncontrollable “acts of God,” then we have a fighting chance at making better laws and better decisions in the future.
Sandra Zellmer began teaching at the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2003. She teaches and writes about natural resources, water law, public lands, wildlife, environmental law, and related topics. She also serves on the Steering Committee for the University’s Global Water for Food Institute.
Zellmer is a co-author and principal editor of a casebook, Natural Resources Law (2nd edition 2012), published by Thomson/West Publishing. She has published dozens of book chapters and articles, and was awarded “Best Paper” by the American Bar Association for her work on “Missouri River Mud: Clean Water and Endangered Species,” which she presented at the ABA’s Annual Water Law Conference in 2011. She also served as a committee member on the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Committee on Missouri River Recovery; the committee report was published in 2010. Also in 2011, Zellmer gave a presentation about U.S. water law at the M.S. Swaminathan Institute in Chennai, India, with members of the Global Water for Food Institute. For the past few years, she has conducted a training session on wilderness management at the Carhart Federal Wilderness Center in Missoula, MT.
Previously, Professor Zellmer was a member of the faculty at the University of Toledo College of Law from 1998 – 2004. She has been a visiting professor at both Tulane Law School and Drake University Law School. Prior to teaching, she was a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, litigating public lands and wildlife issues for various federal agencies, including the National Forest Service, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service. She also practiced law at Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and clerked for the Honorable William W. Justice, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas.