November 19, 2020
When it comes to building a more sustainable and equitable society, Vermont Law School Professor Jonathan Rosenbloom believes in keeping it local.
“I’ve always been attracted to the concept and the reality of community,” he said. “National standards may be critical in some instances. But when we govern at the federal level, policies regulate generic ‘water’ or ‘forests.’ Whereas at the local level we regulate ‘this river, the river where my kids and I go kayaking’ and ‘this tree, the tree where I proposed to my wife.’ There is a very deep connection to place that permeates local regulations.”
Rosenbloom explores that connection between policy and place with the Sustainable Development Code (SDC), a resource that helps communities boost resilience, sustainability, and equity through local ordinances. Local governments face myriad challenges today, from COVID-19, to climate change, to racial justice. The SDC helps them become more adaptable and resilient, especially in smaller municipalities that might not have the luxury of several planners or a staff member specializing in sustainability, and whose codes are often outdated.
"I’ve always been attracted to the concept and the reality of community. There is a very deep connection to place that permeates local regulations."
– Professor Jonathan Rosenbloom
Rosenbloom first got involved with the SDC while on the faculty at Drake University in Iowa; since becoming the project’s executive director in 2016, he’s worked with an interdisciplinary group of academics and practitioners (including lawyers, planners, city staff, economists, and others) to draft over 450 policy recommendations supported by over 3000 ordinances—all outlined in an easily digestible format at sustainablecitycode.org. In conjunction with VLS’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, the SDC’s new Food Security and Sovereignty chapter launched earlier this fall.
“Jonathan brings so much to the table as a professor, scholar, and innovator,” said VLS Associate Dean for Environmental Programs Jenny Rushlow. “His work reimagining local land use policies through the lens of sustainability, and sharing that work through open access resources for local governments, is making a difference in the world—making him a perfect fit for our community.”
Rosenbloom officially joined VLS faculty earlier this year, a move that was a long time coming. “About 10 years ago I went to the very first environmental law colloquium at VLS, and it was immediately apparent that I found my place,” Rosenbloom recalled. “Being around a smart, caring, and innovative faculty is critical for improving the environment and for growing as an individual.”
"It is incredibly encouraging to be around young individuals who are constantly talking and thinking about how they can create a better planet and future. And let’s be honest: Vermont is awesome."
– Professor Jonathan Rosenbloom
Now, when he’s not teaching VLS courses like Legislation & Regulation and State & Local Government, you’ll find Rosenbloom woodworking, creating large charcoal architectural drawings, or kayaking and camping with his family and friends.
You’ll also find him continuing to build out the SDC—now alongside Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and VLS student research assistants. “It is incredibly encouraging to be around young individuals who are constantly talking and thinking about how they can create a better planet and future,” Rosenbloom said of the students he’s encountered at VLS. “And let’s be honest: Vermont is awesome.”