So who was one of the key movers and shakers in the nascent environmental law movement? Some well-educated North American or European lawyer, right?
How about a German who never finished high school and reluctantly fought for the Reich during World War II?
G. Tracy Mehan III, whose prose frequently graces these pages, is back with an article written for the March-April 2016 issue of The Environmental Forum. In it, he reviews a book about Wolfgang Burhenne, the inveterate hunter who wound up doing great things, despite the fact that his name sounds like it could be the answer to a question in Trivial Pursuit.
Here are the first few paragraphs of Tracy's review to whet your appetite:
Notwithstanding the turn away from hunting in some circles, both the conservation and environmental movements are indebted to those who enjoy the chase and the taste of wild game. Besides Theodore Roosevelt, of course, Russell Train, first chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and second administrator of the EPA, comes to mind. (See my review of a recent book on Train, A Man of Consequence: Con icts of a Conservative Conservationist,” July/ August 2007). He was a big game hunter who established the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation.
Each year 700,000 firearm deer licenses are issued in Michigan, 600,000 in Wisconsin, more men and women under arms than NATO. Hunters appreciate the outdoor life and understand the importance of protecting the habitat, the ecosystem if you will, of wild species. these consumptive users are a big constituency for land and water conservation. Whether an increasingly urbanized and suburbanized society, one increasingly diverse in ethnic and cultural terms, will provide comparable support for conservation and environmental protection in the years ahead is an open question.
These thoughts came to mind while reading Vivienne Klimke’s useful hagiography, A Sustainable Life: Wolfgang E. Burhenne and the Development of Environmental Law, the story of a key leader in the movement to create international environmental law despite his not having even finished high school. Burhenne, who was drafted into the Waffen SS at the age of 17 and wounded on the Eastern Front, embraced the resistance to the Nazi regime while hospitalized at a military facility in Dachau. where he learned of the horrors nearby from concentration camp prisoners who worked in the hospital.
I am inspired to read about Burhenne, an amazing human being.