Climate Justice

Theresa Bichsel
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

Luke Boughen
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

Jean Su
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

On April 1, 2011, UCI Law’s first student-organized conference will be held at UCI Law. “A3: A Conference on Climate Justice,” examines the social injustices faced by vulnerable populations who are disproportionately impacted by climate change. The one-day, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. event will bring together scholars, practitioners, and students to explore and strategize ways to address climate justice through the power of law, policy, and coalition building. A3 represents our vision for an interdisciplinary conference: a gathering that promotes attendees to Assemble, Advocate, and Act. It is a unique collaborative effort of UCI Law student organizations: ELS, uRSA, OCHRA, ACS, ILS, and the Federalist Society.

Advancing the law school’s goals of interdisciplinary collaboration, this conference started with a grant from the Center in Law, Society and Culture to bring together graduate students from different departments. Josh Gellers, a Political Science PhD student has been working with Theresa Bichsel, Luke Boughen, and Jean Su from the law school to design an event that is relevant, involves the community, and serves the public interest.

The way we handle climate change should be a defining issue of our generation, and this conference will explore some of the problems we will face through three panels. The first panel will be on Innovation for Vulnerable Communities. Maxine Burkett (Hawaii), Elizabeth Burleson (Florida), and Ethan Elkind (Berkeley & UCLA) will start the day by showing the harms communities face, what has been done to this point, and recommendations for the future. The second panel, on Comparative Constitutional Rights to Environment, will have three constitutional scholars: Deepa Badrinarayana (Chapman, Indian Constitution expert), Dean Erwin Chemerinsky (UCI Law, U.S. Constitution), and Eric Christiansen (Golden Gate, South African Constitution). Each will look at whether constitutional rights to environment exist, and whether constitutional rights are effective for the type of protection desired here—the right to be free from climate change. The last panel looks at the effectiveness of Climate Change Litigation as a means of addressing the problem, with expertise from Hari Osofsky (Minnesota), Neil Popovic (Sheppard Mullin), and Mary Wood (Oregon). The panels will be moderated, respectively, by Richard Matthew (Director, Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at UCI), Professor Joseph DiMento (Director, Newkirk Center for Science and Society at UCI) and Cara Horowitz (Director, Emmett Center for Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA).

In addition to hosting panel discussions with preeminent scholars and practitioners, organizations will promote the campaigns they are working on that address climate justice and other issues. There will be presentations by featured organizations like Green for All, Urban Habitat, Ecofficiency, and Three Degrees, as well as opportunities to join the local networks of national groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Coastkeeper.

Situated at the crossroads of Los Angeles and San Diego, we think that UC Irvine could become a hub for coalition building. We want to engage people that may not know about UC Irvine or may not know about climate justice. So please pass this on to undergraduates, professionals, your family and friends. Even if you have to be elsewhere, all are encouraged to follow and add their own questions and comments via the webcast and blog. We look forward to hosting this conference at the Law School, and hope to see you there. http://www.assembleadvocateact.org.

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