The Law & Science of the Environment & Toxic Torts
Thomas H. Clarke, Jr. Thomas H. Clarke, Jr., J.D., M.S., is Chair of the Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley Environmental Practice Group and has over 30 years of environmental consulting and litigation experience. RMKB has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, San Jose, & Redwood City.
Knew or should have known, a standard often applied in a myriad of legal context, could soon be the one applied to attorneys who ignore the risks associated with communicating with clients using modern technologies (i.e., text messaging, emails, telephone calls, and voice-mail) without appreciating the risk. “Ignorance is Bliss,” is a dangerous proposition in the practice of law when it comes to ignoring current technologies. What obligations require attorneys to protect their client communications, and what practical steps can be taken to meet statutory and ethical obligations related to confidentiality? Is there a real risk, or is the risk limited to action movies?
Sometimes a piece of research changes the way one looks at ecosystems.
Evaporation from tiny pores in the leaves of trees pulls water up from the roots through thousands of slim tubes, called xylem tissue. When water is scarce, these tubes can develop microscopic air bubbles which block these tubes. Too many of these bubbles across the xylem kills the tree.
To judge the state of forests, researchers studied 81 sites spanning from wet tropics to arib shrublands. The study gauged water transport in various tree species, and sought to assess the point at which each species dies from lack of water being delivered to its tissues.
The researchers concluded that 70% of 226 woody species in forests around the world routinely function near the point at which a serious drought would stop sufficient water transport from their roots to their leaves. Even trees in moist, "lush" places operate with slim margins. Flowering tree species (e.g., maples, oaks) are more vulnerable overall to dry conditions than conifers.
What drives this marginal state? Over time, trees have evolved to make a tradeoff between water lost and the capture of carbon dioxide, which is needed for metabolism and growth. When a tree opens its pores, it loses approximately 400 water molecules for each molecule of carbon that is captured. The reseachers thus conclude that trees are maximizing their carbon capture "for food" even though it puts their existence near the margin in terms of water.