John Cooper

John Cooper

2020 Undergraduate Fellow
Environmental Science & Public Policy

Thesis title and description:
"Process Tracing in the Development of Expert-Driven Water Law"

I plan to split approximately six weeks of time between the archives at the United States Library of Congress and local archives in New York, Illinois, and Ohio in support of my honors thesis in Environmental Science and Public Policy, which will focus on the evolving justifications for water protections in the United States from the late 19th century to the mid-20thCentury. Specifically, I hope to explore how a centuries-old normative framework for water regulations based on property rights gave way to a putatively objective system of scientific regulations in the 1970s. I will analyze the changing rhetoric around environmental protections in legislation as well as legislative debates in order to map out the trajectory of expert-driven water policy in the United States. Working with media collections in the Library of Congress, I also hope to situate this history within the context of other events with unexplored connections to environmental legislation. In the history of American environmentalism, there exists a “relative dearth of historical work on environmental law,” in addition to a pattern of “relatively narrow jurisdictional and chronological frames,” in the work that does exist.