The work we do at Stanford Law School, whether in research or teaching, tackles big issues affecting societies around the world. Here in California, as we emerge from another horrific fire season on the West Coast, our faculty and students are considering a host of questions raised by climate change. Does the state need a new regulatory agency to manage its forests? Why isn’t the smoke generated by wildfires treated as a health hazard by lawmakers? How should policymakers in the state adapt to changing water availability in the face of rising demand and drought? In our feature, professors Buzz Thompson, JD/MBA ’76 (BA ’72), and Debbie Sivas, JD ’87, discuss the ways that state and federal laws must be reimagined to address the effects of climate change. The feature also highlights an innovative multidisciplinary policy lab, Smoke, co-taught by Sivas and Michael Wara, JD ’08, that looks at the very real dangers of wildfire smoke and ways to mitigate health risks from it. Law students in Smoke have been researching obstacles to prescribed and cultural burning, which early research shows have lower emissions and fewer health impacts than uncontrolled wildfire smoke. Unlike wildfire emissions, prescribed fires are regulated, requiring burn permits and sometimes lengthy environmental reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Of course, climate change is not an issue faced by California alone. Across the globe, we can see the effects rising temperatures have on different locations and the disparate impact on economically disadvantaged populations. The research done by our faculty and students in California, which has been a leader in climate change efforts, is vital to these large efforts.
The plight of women and liberal-minded Afghans is another weighty issue that has engaged our faculty, students, and alumni. The quick fall of the NATO-supported government took the world by surprise, but it really hit home for the members and alumni of our Rule of Law Program’s Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP), directed by Professor of the Practice Erik Jensen. ALEP was founded in 2007 to address a very urgent need: to help educate lawyers in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. At that time, there simply weren’t enough citizens properly educated in the law to help rebuild the country. Fifteen years on, ALEP, in collaboration with faculty and students in the law program at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), has published eight textbooks about Afghan law for Afghan audiences, with another four forthcoming. With grants from the U.S. Department of State, ALEP has also helped design and support the BA-LLB (bachelor of arts and law) degree program at AUAF. In this issue, we hear from Jensen and Stanford’s Vice President and General Counsel Debra Zumwalt, JD ’79, both of whom serve on the AUAF board and who are joined in the discussion by Nasiruddin Nezaami, chair of the law department and a law professor at AUAF, and Gharsanay Amin, a graduate of the AUAF law program.
That is just a taste of what is in these pages. I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I did. I’ll end by giving you a glimpse of life on campus. Our autumn quarter was full of life and learning here at SLS. Our students, faculty, and staff dove back into in-person teaching and programming, and the hallways and gathering spaces in our small corner of the university’s campus were bustling and vibrant once again. Though the ravages and heartbreak of the pandemic continue here in the United States and across the world, SLS has emerged from the past two years energized to focus on our mission of teaching the next generation of lawyers to lead us through the myriad legal, political, and ethical challenges that undoubtedly will arise.