A visiting international professor of environmental law emphasized the importance of conservation, protection and restoration of the environment Tuesday at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
Antonio A. Oposa, Jr., the Inouye Chair holder for Spring 2015, explained to over 100 people at the Imin International Conference Center that humans need to shift from a mindset of wasteful consumption to conservation and protection for future generations.
“I like to call it restorative economics: First, to [restore] the land, air and water that we have destroyed; two, to restore the lost connection between man and nature; and three, to restore the ... public of human society; and four, to restore the commonsense goal of life,” Oposa said.
Avi Soifer, dean of the William S Richardson School of Law, said the university is blessed to have the visiting professor for the next two months.
“Tony gets to the heart of the matters, but he also gets to people's hearts and he’s a remarkable representative,” Soifer said. “He just doesn’t talk about it. He does it, and he gets other people do do it. It’s really quite a phenomenon and we’re really honored and blessed to have him here.”
Rachel James, a representative of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, presented an honorary certificate to the visiting professor and issued a statement from Gabbard who was not present Tuesday because of prior commitments.
“It’s an honor to congratulate you on your selection as the Spring 2015 Inouye chair,” the statement said. “We are committed to a long-standing efficacy toward environmental equity and respected international standard. Mahalo for your steadfast commitment to maximize the power of law. This focus will nurture and protect the environment for current and future generations.”
The spring 2015 Inouye Chair holder remembered when he was fresh out of law school and saw the rate of deforestation in the Philippines.
“Just out of law school, I have a 3-year-old son and I said, ‘When I saw this, we were cutting the trees down; we only had 800,00 hectares of rainforest left in the Philippines’,” he said. “They were cutting them down at a rate of 120,000 hectares a year. It doesn’t take a lot to understand that in seven years there will be no forest left.”
Oposa decided that he would use law to tell stories and help to restore the environment for his son and future generations.
“I can tell stories, law is my medium and the court is the canvas of my heart,” he said. “I filed a case on behalf of future generations, saying that ‘When my son becomes 10-years-old, he’s not going to have any forest left’.”
The case went to the Supreme Court of the Philippines and a law was passed to conserve the remaining areas of forest in the Philippines.
“Today would not be too far when all else would be lost; not only for this generation but also for succeeding generations that stand to inherit nothing but a parched Earth incapable of sustaining life,” The Supreme Court of the Philippines said.
Oposa said the “time for talk is over" and action is needed in order to restore the environment.
“Vision without action is nothing more than a dream,” He said. “Action without vision wastes time, but vision with action can and will change the word.”