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Things are quiet a2013Coverround the office since we said goodbye to 40 ELAW partners from 27 countries. These environmental heroes came to Oregon late last month for the 2013 ELAW Annual Meeting and the 31st Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.

Before he flew home, longtime partner Kenneth Kakuru from Uganda said, “This is a pilgrimage. I come to renew my zeal!”

We traveled to a conference site in Blue River and built foundations for lasting collaboration using law, science, and economics to protect communities and the environment.Thuli on cover of Weekly

We explored old growth forests, learned about local efforts to defend ecosystems, and cooked great meals together.

Many colleagues met face-to-face for the first time, including Goldman Prize winners Thuli Makama from Swaziland and Ikal Angelei from Kenya.

Enjoy profiles of the international partners who attended our annual gathering and a cover story in the Eugene Weekly, “Fighting for Africa.”

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

amigos at reception cropped

Environmental leaders from around the world at ELAW’s reception at the PIELC

ELAW recently welcomed environmental leaders from 27 countries to Eugene for the 2013 ELAW Annual Meeting and the 31st Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). While here, these advocates shared strategies and worked together to protect clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment.

The Eugene community offered tremendous support for our Annual Meeting and our reception at the PIELC. We would like to thank the following local businesses for their in-kind contributions to support our work.

On behalf of environmental leaders across the globe, thank you!

Nick Warren
Intern

Pictures for blog

It is “that” time of the year again around the ELAW office.  The buzz is starting to build. Next week is the University of Oregon School of Law’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). The conference is organized by students at the school, not ELAW, though sometimes we get credit for it.  This year we will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of conference and the 100th Anniversary of David Brower’s birth. We will also remember the tragic loss of the beloved Svitlana Kravchenko.

ELAW Fellow Rolès Théard

Yesterday we welcomed our first international visitor for this year’s PIELC – Rolès Théard, a founder of l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN).   Rolès will join partners from Russia and Mongolia to talk about the impacts of mining on a panel during the PIELC.  We’ll also be welcoming lawyers from Guatemala, Madagascar, and Indonesia over the week ahead.  I am thrilled to be working with Rolès this week and looking forward to welcoming the rest of the gang next week.  If you’re going to be in town for the PIELC – please look for ELAW’s table in the busy halls of the law school!

We hope to see you in Eugene!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

If you’ve been following our recent news, you’ll know that we’ve had ELAW Fellows visiting from Mexico, Panama, Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary, Ghana, and Liberia with us over the past couple of weeks. The ELAW office is quieting down, and I’m taking this opportunity to (finally) write about the amazing visit of these young, inspiring attorneys. And, for those of you who could not attend, I will highlight presentations they gave at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC).

Heceta Head Lighthouse overlook

These advocates were here to work with the ELAW team on issues directly related to their work at home protecting communities.  They also learned ways to be more involved and contribute to the ELAW network. And, of course, we couldn’t bring environmental advocates to Oregon and not show off some of our natural wonders, like the coast.

This year’s PIELC was Thursday, March 3 – Sunday, March 6 and it was a hit! The theme was Turning the Tides: Creating a Clean and Green Future. Our gratitude and congratulations go out to the student group, Land Air Water (LAW) that helps organize this amazing annual conference. Each year, ELAW times it  so that our visiting Fellows are able to attend and present their work at PIELC. One theme that resonated through each Fellow’s presentation this year was how closely they work with local communities who are deeply affected by environmental abuses.

On Thursday, Lovesta Brehun, who works with Green Advocates in Liberia, kicked off the conference with the first panel, Challenging Firestone Liberia’s Environmental Abuses, describing the practices of one of the world’s largest latex rubber processing facilities along the Farmington River, discharging poorly treated effluent, and emitting toxic pollut­ants. Green Advocates represents the interests of the public and are demanding that Firestone clean up its act!

On Friday afternoon, Lovesta shared another panel, Ghana and Liberia Forestry and Mining, with Rockson Akugre, an attorney with the Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) in Ghana, as well as local lawyer Dan Kruse of Cascadia Wildlands. Dan traveled to Liberia to work with Lovesta and Green Advocates as a part of an ELAW exchange program, and together they shared information about the logging that threatens family land and livelihoods in much of Liberia. Lovesta spoke passionately about her country, whose people are still struggling to overcome decades of civil war. She detailed examples of how multinational corporations are exploiting people as they attempt to get back on their feet.

Rockson spoke of the extractive industries in Ghana, particularly gold and copper mining companies, and the need for strong enforcement of environmental laws. He described how multinational corporations often promise jobs and an improved economy to local communities, but the reality is much different. Rockson has visited villages near the mines and they are some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in Ghana.

Friday evening, ELAW hosted a reception in honor of our ELAW Fellows. It was a chance for ELAW supporters, past and present ELAW employees and volunteers, and other PIELC participants to connect. Bern introduced our visitors and announced ELAW’s 20-year anniversary!! Everyone enjoyed wine donated by Benton-Lane Winery in Monroe, Oregon and beer provided by Oakshire Brewery here in Eugene.

Svitlana Kravchenko, of EPL and the University of Oregon, School of Law introduces Aimee Code of NCAP and Olena Kravchenko of EPL

On Saturday morning, Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director of Environment-People-Law (EPL) in Ukraine, shared a panel with members of the Eugene-based group, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. During the panel, Pesticide Pollution is a Danger for Life, she described how EPL has worked with the government to oversee and ensure tons of leaking pesticide dumps were cleaned up, and the dangerous chemicals shipped to Hamburg for proper disposal. Members of the audience were impressed to learn how Olena’s group gained the confidence of the local community by being present every step of the way to hold the government accountable and ensure the cleanup was safe.

At the same time, Pedro Leon, an attorney at Instituto de Derecho Ambiental (IDEA) in Mexico, and Tania Arosemana, an attorney at El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM) in Panama, discussed the complications of extractive industries in their home countries. Seats filled, people lined themselves along walls and sat on stairs to attend the panel, Latin America: Impacts of Mining and other Natural Resource Extraction. Pedro focused on one of IDEA’s current projects: ensuring indigenous communities have a voice and maintain control of their traditional lands when threatened by rock/gravel extraction from a local riverbed.

Tania spoke fervently of green washing used by companies to convince community members of commitment to education and community well-being. CIAM is demanding a moratorium on mining in Panama. They believe that Panama needs to enact stronger regulations and demonstrate more oversight before large-scale mining is allowed in Panama.

Szilvia and Kart answer questions after their presentation

The last of the ELAW panels took place first thing Sunday morning. Kart, the founder and Executive Director of Estonian Environmental Law Center (EELC) and Szilvia, an attorney with Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA) gave a presentation entitled Environmental Impact Assessments in Estonia and Hungary, providing examples of how their organizations are working to make the approval process for proposed projects that threaten the communities and the environment transparent. Kart discussed her work with a local community affected by the noise from crushing and blasting at a nearby limestone quarry. Szilvia’s organization worked with a local community, re-routing a major road expansion away from their town and around a protected green space.

After the closing keynote address, we agreed that the perfect way to wind down after a very busy conference was to venture out to a local winery. We had lunch on an overlook, where we could admire the gorgeous scenery and taste Oregon’s famous Pinot Noir. It only took about one glass each before we were all ready to call it a day. We were looking forward to another field trip the next day.

ELAW Fellows at the Oregon coast

On Monday, we accompanied our Fellows to Oregon’s coast. We could not have asked for better weather – the sun was shining and visibility was great. Sea lions swam near the shore, and a gray whale was just visible in the distance. Before returning home, we went for a walk on the beach at low tide – Tania even took off her shoes to play in the surf!

Now that our recent Fellows have returned home, we will continue to work across the internet, but nothing can replace face-to-face meetings. Not only is time spent in each other’s company productive and efficient, it is when we learn the most about on another and our reasons for doing what we do. We find motivation and encouragement in the stories of people around the world, whose work we can relate to, as they face unique challenges and struggle against the odds protecting the environment and human rights.

If you’d like more information about how you can help support ELAW’s Fellows Program, visit our website.

Lauren Ice
ELAW Office Manager

2010 PIELC conference logoEvery year about this time, somebody will call our office and say, “I want to sign up for your conference.”  Or, I’ll meet an environmentalist at a gathering and he’ll say “Oh, I attend your conference every year.”

The thing is, ELAW doesn’t have a conference.  We know that the caller and the others are talking about the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) organized by law students at the University of Oregon. The confusion began back when that conference was called the Land Air Water conference, or LAW for short – and because it was an environmental conference, some people called it the E-LAW conference.

It is also confusing because ELAW began at the conference some 20 years ago!

So, here is a little bit of background to help keep the players, the organizations, and the events straight.

In 1983, a group of law students and professors got together and created the first “Western Public Interest Law Conference.”  A student organization, called Land, Air, Water organized the conference, and it was co-sponsored by the U of O Law School’s Western Natural Resources Law Clinic.

The conference was held in March, and students, professors, scientists, attorneys, non-profit staff members and environmental advocates from all over the West Coast attended. Over the next seven years, the conference expanded its focus to include international issues, and in 1990 changed the name to the “Public Interest Law Conference.”  In 1993 the conference added Environmental to the name and the current name — Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) — was born.  The conference continued to be sponsored and organized by the L.A.W student group, and so, throughout the years, it was colloquially called the Land, Air, Water or “L.A.W.” conference, though calling it the PIELC is catching on.

The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) was born at the conference in 1989 when participants from ten different countries were sitting around the dinner table talking about the similarities of the environmental and human rights challenges that they each were facing in their home countries.  What if, they asked, we could communicate and collaborate with one another and share resources, strategies, and brainpower?  Using a (then) nascent technology called email, these ten founders created an alliance of public interest environmental lawyers and scientists who were advocates for human rights and the environment all over the world.

Since then, the PIELC happens early every spring, and the ELAW network has continued to grow.  Most years, members of the ELAW network are keynote speakers and panelists at the PIELC. In odd numbered years, ELAW holds their Annual Meeting just before the PIELC and ELAW advocates attend and often speak at the conference.

So, although they are definitely related, the PIELC, L.A.W. and ELAW are separate entities, overlapping in their passion to protect the planet through connecting advocates for the environment from all over the world.

2010 PIELC conference logo

In a mere three weeks, at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), environmental activists from all over the country — in fact, from all over the world — will come to Eugene for three intense days of teaching and learning and listening and speaking about issues as diverse as global deforestation, empowering young environmentalists and climate change mitigation efforts.  The event is coordinated by Land, Air, Water (LAW) a student environmental law society.  It will be held February 25-28 on the University of Oregon campus.  The theme for this year is: Recover • Renew • Reimagine.  The tentative conference schedule is now available on the PIELC website (though it is subject to change.)  You can register at this link — registration is free, but donations are appreciated.

Keynote speakers include:

There will also be two special events prior to the ‘formal’ opening of PIELC:

Wednesday, February 24 —  7:30 pm — Columbia 150 (University of Oregon)

Environmental attorney Denis Hayes, national coordinator for the first EarthDay, former director of the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and current president of the Bullitt Foundation.  Sponsored by the Oregon Humanities Center.

Thursday, February 25 — 3:30-4:30 pm — EMU Ballroom (University of Oregon)

Empowering the Next Generation of Wildlife Warriors

Join Robert and Bindi Irwin for an interactive question-and-answer session geared specifically toward young conservationists.  Attendance is free, but seating is limited for this youth-oriented presentation.  Learn more!

More information about the relationship between the PIELC and ELAW and details about the schedule and speakers will be featured in future blog posts.

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