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Of Rainforests And Rain, Land Titles, Bosons (the Higgs), Albatross Deaths And More

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
15. Water law
Author(s): Jane Cohen (Austin
Jane Maslow Cohen
University of Texas School of Law

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 15: Water law,


The paper I propose to present will reach across the areas of law, science, and policy. It will explore the potentially irreplaceable value of certain physical habitats that science may prove to be exceptionally conducive to the production of rain. It will lay out the scientific hypothesis for this proposition in two argumentative modes in order to generate both a strong and a weak(er) claim about the function of these habitats, which we know, not surprisingly, as rain forests. I will then explore a concomitant claim: that title to these forests should be held-- with exquisite care, in perpetuity-- by institutions of public governance or their contingent proxies--contingency being a claim-in-chief within my work.
In the course of this analysis, I will rely, as to the science, on findings from several disciplines. Again, I'll be operating in two modes. Here, in the first descriptive mode, I will put forward work already synthesized by a group of researchers who have been sharing information and funding to form a multi-disciplinary team from fields that include atmospheric physics, plant genomics, microbiology, and agronomy in order to study the biological foundations of ice nucleation (IN), atmospheric fluxes, and the land-based environmental niches that may serve as loci for IN activity before bacteria and pollens enter the circulating biota within the troposphere, where they aggregate in mixed-phase clouds to form, or not to form, rain. (Note: Anyone who has read Thomas Kuhn's classic 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is aware that scientists squabble and disagree over the validity of their paradigms. I will not succumb to the temptation to portray the young, still immature science of bioprecipitation as if it has won over all scientists doing work on precipitation. I'll be sure that feldspar and algae researchers are given some voice, as well as those who are nucleation source-indifferent. Still, there has been an initial move toward integration through the recognition of the unique role of biological ice nucleators, even among some of these groups, that I will be quite gratified to point out.) In the second descriptive mode, I will attempt to assimilate to this already-synthesized, multidisciplinary work the efforts of a second, more loosely dispersed group of researchers who have been working specifically within rain forests to understand the ways that they function and the ways that their functioning is being impaired by alternative land-use projects, including logging and farming, that involve deforestation.
It may be of some interest that the rain forest researchers and the IN researchers seem not to be cognizant of each others' work. At least it is the case that neither group cites to the others' publications in their own. Yet, their efforts can all be seen as supportive of a unified scaffold of scientific understanding; and, together, both teams can be drawn upon to lend urgency to the task of rain forest protection that needs, in my view, to gather new strength to its cause.
To look, then, to the kinds of policy and legal judgments on which newly-invigorated rain forest protection could be made to depend, I intend to:
(a) compare title schemes that are currently in operation--some of them, newly so--in several rain forests within different sovereign states in the world;
(b) consider the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that pertain to deforestation in order to inspect the timetables they announce;
(c) offer an interpretation of at least two sets of constitutional provisions (Brazil's and Equador's) that could be brought to bear on the development of nationally-protective schemes; and
(d) squint at the move to create a universal individualized right to water, on account of the potentially adverse relationship of this right to the mantle of, and mandate for, rainforest protection I intend to weave. My initial framing device for this energetic inquiry will look to the highly collaborative, well-funded, now apparently successful search for the Higgs boson for inspiration. And the coda to the paper will invoke a haunting image of a dead albatross baby, its digestive tract filled with plastic ocean-carried waste, as metaphor for failures to protect against anthropogenic changes that are as likely to be affecting the rain cycle as all other aspects of Earth's hydrology and all the other processes on which every form of life depends. (The image belongs to the "Midway" series by photographer Chris Jordan, who is currently making a film about the thousands of dead albatrosses that, in search of food for their young, ingest a deadly soup of plastic waste. Their carcasses cover certain Pacific atolls.)
Note: This piece is a sequel to "Are We Killing the Rain? Meditations on the Water Cycle and, More Particularly, On Bioprecipitation", given as a panel presentation at WWC XIV and afterwards published in 2012 Water International 37 (6), 670-682. It intends to feature a provisional description of microbial-atmospheric feedbacks that are just now coming under intense study. (I have recently returned from a week-long multi-disciplinary conference on this subject, based on work some of which is not yet in published form.) Many of my scientific citations will be to works that have been published since my earlier article was completed as well as to papers not yet in print. Part of the mission to which my new work is dedicated is to cause scientific researchers doing allied work across fields to shake hands, in virtual terms, since they appear not to know of each others' efforts, in some cases. I will follow up by sending all of them copies of the paper. My hope is to speed their efforts to understand the rain cycle and rain forests by helping them to align what they know and, possibly, to coordinate their efforts to understand what they don't yet know. Ultimately, the idea is to learn whether and how, if subject to protection, propagation, or other forms of management while they inhabit the land base, organic ice-nucleation-active (INA) material capable of launching as aerosols could productively contribute to methods by which the climate-related changes in the hydrological system (my preferred term to "cycle", for its greater accuracy) could be favorably mediated, for example, by decreasing the severity of droughts through the wider or more frequent distribution of rain.

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