Friday, September 11, 2015

No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund

An idea I had years ago got called out recently by Richard Louv, author of Last Child In the Woods. Louv was mad about a little girl being forced by city regulators to tear down a treehouse and he remembered something I'd written:
In 2006 [actually 2007 -ed.], an environmental lawyer named Brian Schmidt started thinking about nature-deficit disorder and came up with a novel idea, which he shared in his blog: “Set up a legal foundation that pays the legal defense costs of institutions and individuals who bring children outdoors and then [are] hit with frivolous lawsuits.” In the 2008 update to “Last Child in the Woods,” I passed along Schmidt’s idea, and suggested calling it the No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund.

At the outset, the fund would defend people “against the claims that would have established the worst precedents or had the worst potential impact,” he said, in an email. “The fund would support “all or part of defendant’s legal costs afterwards,” if the defendants did not settle the case. “Regardless of how successful this idea could become, it will never cover all the costs of defending against all lawsuits. Still it could help, and just the fact that a defendant knew it was possible to recover costs might make the defendant less likely to settle".....

Who would pay for such a fund? How about trail lawyers and other attorneys, through donations and pro bono services. Many are genuinely concerned about the growth of litigiousness and the kind of regulation enforcement that can give good regulations — the kind that fight corporate polluters for example — a bad name.

“I also expect that businesses that support the outdoors would be interested in funding the foundation,” added Schmidt. He said he was just tossing “this idea out into the Googleable universe, with the additional mention that I’d be willing to put in some of my own money or time as a lawyer if the idea goes anywhere.”
I wrote a little more here.

Louv matched this idea with conservative Charles Murray's wish for a legal organization that challenges onerous government regulations. I can't say I'm a fan of Murray, but I think there are some government regulations that enviros would like to see challenged, like mandatory off-street parking requirements. I've also thought for a long time that zoning should either be aimed at high density or low density, not the in-between density that afflicts suburbia, and high density means lifting restrictions on uses.

For what it's worth, maybe something will happen with all this.

Side note:  a Quora thread on what fossil fuel company employees think of their own role in climate change. Interesting to see different levels of denial, even from people who's deny their in denial about climate change.