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April 17, 2009: A class, by any other name…would not be as great as this one
April 17, 2009
A class, by any other name…would not be as great as this one
I’m overdue for this month’s blog, but that is because I spent the first two weeks gathering my material, and the last week trying to catch up on my work. As I foreshadowed last post, I was in Brazil from 2 April to 12 April over our Spring Break. Of course, with the semester ending a little sooner this year, and break coming a week later, this leaves me with two weeks to finish up papers and make my outlines. Combined with my inability to shake a persistent case of senioritis, it may be time to hit a panic button. Nah. I can’t be worried. Why? I’ve got Brazil on my mind.
The Comparative Environmental Law course, taught by Prof. Cassuto, is one of the gems here at Pace, and the trip to Brazil is only a small part of the reason why. First of all, the course is really two-in-one. Prof. Cassuto is one of the top scholars of U.S. water law, and we spent the first few weeks learning about the precarious state of this country’s water supply (hint: take shorter showers; we don’t have much left!). Of course you can take Water Law itself as a separate class, but having missed out on it, I was delighted to get some insight on the topic. It makes sense to focus on only one aspect of the law; who honestly thinks that a single two-credit course could effectively cover all the aspects of two nations’ environmental laws? That said, we covered quite a bit of material, and I have a much better grasp of the Brazilian Constitution than I thought I would.
What makes the course stand out is the interaction we had with Prof. Romulo Sampaio (“Sam”) from Getulio Vargas Foundation. We teleconferenced with Sam for half of our classes, and it was a great experience to be able to learn from him while we were in both countries, rather than only meeting him for a few days in Rio de Janeiro. Sadly, our video conference room is one of the rare downsides of this school, and the antiquated technology detracts from what is otherwise a magnificent course. Perhaps when I am a rich alumnus, I will make a healthy donation to get that room up to speed so we don’t waste class time talking to operators. I’ll have that kind of money in a year, right?
Brazil, itself, is amazing. There is no place like it. Driving through Mato Grosso do Sul, I kept trying to match the scenery with somewhere in the United States, and though there were parts of Texas, Florida, and California, none matched. Of course, I don’t often look out the window in this country to see a pair of toucans keeping pace with the bus. I am incredibly thankful that I was able to see so much of such a beautiful and diverse natural habitat. Prof. Cassuto has taken great efforts to create contacts in Brazil to get us to places that most tourists would never see. We were in the heart of the Pantanal, a wetland the size of Illinois. We met with the Ministerio Publico, which is similar to the EPA and DOJ combined, only cooler. There is no replacement for seeing the natural areas that we are trying to protect to enforce the importance of the work we are all doing. I for one would not be able to write the paper I am composing for the class without the conversations we had over lunch while in Rio. I also would not be reliving memories as I type of mane foxes, cappibara, matte on an endless beach, and some of the greenest land I have ever seen. I’ve done a lot at this school, and this is easily one of the top highlights. I only hope that the course is able to continue to offer the same unique experience to future students.