Allard's Centre for Law & the Environment Innovates Open Access Legal Education with the First Annual Green Rights & Warrior Lawyers Virtual Academy & Inspirathon
Nov 2, 2022
On October 18, 2022, the Centre for Law & the Environment at the University of British Columbia's Allard School of Law launched an innovative online learning program that is unique in the field of public environmental law education.
The First Annual Green Rights & Warrior Lawyers Virtual Academy (“GRAWL Academy”) is being delivered live online over three days—October 18, November 9 and 10—and will be followed by a collaborative “Inspirathon” in which university students from around the world collaborate to advance knowledge and action.
The GRAWL Academy is not the only online legal educational event on environmental rights and justice that is free and open to the public. Far from it. There are numerous such programs. The School for Human Rights and the Environment hosted by the Global Network on Human Rights and the Environment and the United Nations Environment Programme, held most recently in June, 2022, is an excellent example.
Mobilizing the Power of Stories
What makes the Academy different? The Centre's director, Professor Stepan Wood, explained that "Unlike other virtual schools and symposia on environmental law, the Green Rights and Warrior Lawyers Academy does not focus on conveying knowledge of the latest legal or political developments in a particular field. Nor does it focus on imparting or critiquing legal principles, rules, decisions or doctrines."
"Rather, it focuses on stories and the power of storytelling to bring the relationship between law, environmental rights and environmental justice to life," he said.
The Academy mobilizes the power of personal stories to bring issues of environmental rights and justice to life and inspire action. Over three days, nine courageous “Warrior Lawyers” from five continents and global regions (Africa, Europe, North America, Oceania and Southeast Asia) share their stories about advancing “Green Rights” through (or sometimes despite) law, and issue a call to action aimed at prompting audience members to act upon what they have learned. Each talk is followed by reflections by an academic commentator and audience Q&A. The sessions are streamed live over Zoom, recorded and posted online for free viewing.
The nine featured "Warrior Lawyers" and corresponding dates (in the Pacific time zone) are:
- October 18, 2022: Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson Gid7ahl Gudsllaay, Haida lawyer, artist, musician, author and activist (Canada) and Brian Preston, Chief Judge of the New South Wales Land & Environment Court (Australia)
- November 9, 2022: Mumta Ito, lawyer, rights of nature champion and Executive Director of Nature’s Rights (UK), Marjan Minnesma, lawyer, social entrepreneur, 2022 Goldman Prize winner and Executive Director of the Urgenda Foundation (Netherlands), and Tony Oposa, lawyer, storyteller, teacher, change maker and Normandy Chair for Peace (Philippines)
- November 10, 2022: Steven Donziger, human rights and environmental attorney for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs in the Chevron Toxico saga (USA), Cormac Cullinan, lawyer and pioneer of Wild Law and Earth Jurisprudence (South Africa), Chima Williams, lawyer, 2022 Goldman Prize winner and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (Nigeria), and Jacinta Ruru, Māori legal scholar, University of Otago (Aotearoa/New Zealand).
By sharing their stories, the speakers shed light on how lawyers and Indigenous legal knowledge holders can use the power of law to fight for environmental justice, the human right to a healthy environment and the rights of non-human beings and ecosystems.
Gathering around the Virtual Kitchen Table
A second unique feature of the GRAWL Academy is that each formal session is followed by a space-limited, informal chat around a virtual “kitchen table” in which a small number of interested audience members who have signed up in advance engage in a relaxed conversation with the Warrior Lawyer who has just given a public talk.
Kindling Students' Imaginations
The third unique feature of the GRAWL Academy is the accompanying Inspirathon, an innovative collaborative exercise open to teams of undergraduate and postgraduate university students in any discipline, anywhere in the world. Students work collaboratively to advance a campaign championed by one of the Academy's featured speakers, Philippine lawyer, activist and educator Tony Oposa, to transform nation-states’ unsustainably exploited Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) into sustainably stewarded Enlightened Ecological Zones. This project is part of Tony’s mandate as the Normandy Chair for Peace, the motto of which is “To have peace on Earth, we must have peace with the Earth.”
“Walkathon,” “bike-athon,” “hackathon,” and more recently, “researchathon” are terms that have been coined to describe events in which people come together in a fun and energetic spirit to pursue collective goals or solve shared problems.
Often these events advance environmental causes. Some of them mobilize university students to research and brainstorm solutions to environmental law problems. Examples include UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment (and UBC Professor) David Boyd’s 2021 researchathon on environmental sacrifice zones, and UNEP’s 2020 researchathon on good practices in environmental rule of law.
The Green Rights and Warrior Lawyers Virtual Academy and Inspirathon introduces a unique new twist on this idea.
A New Kind of Event: The “Inspirathon”
Until November 30, 2022, the Centre is hosting a virtual “Inspirathon” as the capstone of the First Annual Green Rights & Warrior Lawyers Virtual Academy.
Part brainstorming exercise, part citizen research, part social media activism, the Inspirathon is more than a researchathon. Students conduct research into the current status of the EEZ of their chosen state, but they also use their imaginations to come up with a vision of what an Enlightened Ecosystem Zone might look like for their state. And they record a short video pitching the idea to the public or high-level decision makers. And unlike actual marathons, the Inspirathon is non-competitive. Students pull together toward a shared objective. There will be fun prizes, but they are not competitive.
Open to both undergraduate and post-graduate students and using a teamwork model, this event will not only produce a range of ideas for marine stewardship, but act as an inspiration in miniature for exactly the sort of global collaboration needed to tackle the issues facing the world's oceans.
It's Not Too Late to Get Involved!
There is still time to register to attend any of the remaining Academy sessions or to enter a team in the Inspirathon! To learn more and to register a team, please visit the event webpage.
The Green Rights and Warrior Lawyers Academy and Inspirathon are sponsored financially by the At the Kitchen Table Foundation and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, and supported by the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment, the UBC Sustainability Hub and the UBC Environmental Law Group.
- Centre for Law and the Environment