Daniel Bodansky


On his book The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law

Cover Interview of April 19, 2010

The wide angle

I decided to write this book after a personal incident that took place more than a decade ago—with which I begin the introductory chapter.

I was living in Seattle at the time.  One evening the doorbell rang and it was an environmental volunteer asking for contributions for his organization.  I wasn’t a big fan of his NGO, so I declined and when he asked why, I said that I disagreed with some of his organization’s positions.  He asked which ones and I responded, “Norwegian whaling.”  After an inconclusive debate about the status of minke whales in the North Atlantic, the volunteer, in frustration, played his trump card, exclaiming, “I suppose it doesn’  t matter to you that Norway is in violation of international law!”  That really got me going, so I replied—somewhat pedantically—that I happened to be a professor of international law and that, as a legal matter, Norway is in compliance with the International Whaling Convention.  He stomped off in search of greener pastures.

I found the encounter fascinating because it illustrated so many themes in international environmental law: the intertwining of normative and factual disputes, the special status of legal argumentation, the various design features of international agreements.  And I got to thinking, what could a person read to get a broad, realistic, pragmatic overview of the field, which synthesizes the range of work in different disciplines on international environmental problems?  I couldn’t think of anything and decided to write this book.