“Cornell Law gave me more than information and knowledge,” says Ben Tettlebaum’12, “It taught me how to analyze both the law and extra-legal problems critically.” As the second recipient of the Law School’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Law Fellowship, Tettlebaum will soon be putting that skill to work for urban communities and the environment.
Through the Farm and Food Initiative of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), based in Maine, Tettlebaum will work with urban farming organizations to provide legal and planning tools to underserved populations, laying the foundation for urban agriculture throughout New England. Urban gardens and composting, he says, “can provide healthy, local food sourcing, educate underprivileged youth, develop small-business opportunities for ‘environmental justice’ communities, create jobs throughout Maine, divert tons of solid food waste, and sequester CO2.”
“At a time when environmental concerns are dominating national public policy discussions, we are thrilled to award the second Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Law Fellowship to Ben Tettlebaum,” says Karen Comstock, Assistant Dean for Public Service and a member of the Rhodes Fellowship selection committee. “The committee selected Ben because he has an impressive record of creative leadership on matters relating to the complex issues at the intersection of law, policy, and the environment.”
She adds, “Given Cornell’s history as a land-grant institution and its support of research, scholarship, and the practical application of knowledge addressing the challenges of sustainability, we are confident that Ben’s fellowship project will make an important contribution to these efforts.”
Tettlebaum worked in environmental education for almost a decade before enrolling at Cornell. As a student at the Law School, he served as president of the Environmental Law Society, and in the spring of 2011, he organized the Energy Conference on Gas Drilling, Sustainability and Energy Policy, which drew more than 400 participants from across the state and the nation to discuss the divisive issue of high volume hydraulic fracturing (“hydro-fracking”). Since graduating cum laude in the spring of 2012, Tettlebaum has worked as a legal clerk for the Hon. Duane Benton of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, in his home state of Missouri.
It was there, years ago, that the seeds of his upcoming endeavor were planted. “Growing up on a farm, seeing the hardship wrought by large-scale monoculture, and experiencing the power of local communities producing and consuming their own food gives this project a personal connection for me,” he says.
Funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and shared by the Law School and Cornell’s Population Program, the Frank H.T. Rhodes fellowships are named for Cornell University’s president from 1977 to 1995, also a former Atlantic board member and chair. The fellowships further scholarship and research in poverty alleviation, public health, human rights, and support for the elderly and disadvantaged children.