The ELAW Annual Meeting is officially underway and Monday we had a full slate of activities. In the morning we held a group discussion on international finance institutions and the climate talks leading to Copenhagen. Throughout the day, we had opportunities to meet in smaller working groups discussing topics ranging from strategies to advance indigenous rights, to holding corporations accountable, to using access to information laws. With over 50 public-interest lawyers and advocates from 24 countries, the opportunities for collaboration are limitless and the conversations are non-stop. At any free moment you may overhear a discussion of a recent case on the right to a healthy environment from the Philippines, and later, you’ll see people sharing photos of their children.

Our partners have been arriving in Eugene since Friday afternoon. Olena Kravchenck (Ukraine), Effrey Dademo (Papua New Guinea) and Maurice Makoloo (Kenya) took advantage of their early arrival to try cross-country skiing for the first time on Saturday.

ELAW co-founder and board member John Bonine led our intrepid travelers on their first foray into skiing at Shelter Cove, along the shores of Odell Lake in the Cascade Mountains.

Makoloo from Kenya tries to ski.....

Effrey, who was experiencing snow for the first time remarked that she felt like she was “inside a refrigerator.” Makoloo had some trouble staying upright on his skis, but nevertheless smiled the whole time.

On Sunday night we enjoyed a home-cooked meal prepared by Andres Pirazzoli, (Chile) and Jeanette and Estuardo de Noack and Mara Bocaletti (Guatemala), with help from meeting participants from Peru, Ukraine, and the U.S.

Mara, Jeanette and Liza prepare dessert

Mara, Jeanette and Liza prepare dessert

We feasted on pastel de papas y salmon, pepian chicken and vegetables, and delightful dulce de leche. Meche Lu, ELAW scientist, served chicha morada (a Peruvian fruit drink made with purple corn) that she had prepared herself.

Over dessert we took turns introducing one another, sharing interesting and unknown facts about the talented lawyers of the ELAW family. Of course, the dining room is filled with laughter and earnest discussion as old friends renew their bonds and welcome those who are attending the ELAW Annual Meeting for the first time.

The ELAW Annual Meeting will continue until Thursday, with a field trip and more small work sessions planned for the coming days. We look forward to carrying forward the ideas and collaborations that will emerge from this exciting gathering of environmental heroes from around the world.