Around the world, environmental defenders are using law to vindicate people’s right to live in a healthy environment, and the rights of nature to exist and flourish.
The legal systems of more than 150 countries recognize the human right to live in a healthy environment. Several recognize the legal rights of nature or Mother Earth. And a campaign for a global treaty on environmental rights is gaining steam. Canada, Australia, the US and a handful of other countries are increasingly isolated in their failure to recognize a right to live in a healthy environment in their constitutions or other national laws.
At the same time, young people, land defenders and public interest lawyers in Canada and beyond are pursuing environmental justice by asserting a human right to clean air, water, land, food or a stable climate system, or by standing up for the rights of animals, rivers, species or ecosystems.
The goal of the Green Rights and Warrior Lawyers project is to create a cutting-edge educational platform that brings issues of environmental rights and the rights of nature vividly to life through the power of stories: the personal stories of individual environmental defenders around the world and the “warrior lawyers” who represent them in their pursuit of “green rights”.
The project takes its name from Dr. Cameron’s 2016 documentary film Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World and book Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth.
The project is developing a suite of educational resources for educators and students in a range of fields, at various stages of lifelong learning, in a variety of formats including:
- For-credit university courses, both in-person and online, including a seminar on Warrior Lawyers and Green Rights taught by Professor Stepan Wood in the Allard JD program, and a senior undergraduate political science course on Green Rights taught by Dr. Cameron at Cape Breton University;
- Open-access short educational videos available to educators and the public for free online, the first of which are anticipated for release in Summer 2020;
- Open online courses for anyone curious about the subject
- Fee-based continuing education and certificate programs for working professionals including lawyers, business managers, government officials, non-governmental organization staffers and community organizers.
These educational tools explore the theory and practice of environmental rights and public interest lawyering through real world stories of lawyers and others involved in struggles to protect people, species and ecosystems from environmental harm. Some of these stories come from the frontlines of environmental injustice, others from legal thinkers working behind the scenes.
The Green Rights & Warrior Lawyers Project is designed to raise awareness and understanding of environmental rights and help galvanize movements to give these rights effective legal protection.
This exciting bi-coastal collaboration between British Columbia (Professor Wood and the Centre for Law & the Environment) and Nova Scotia (Dr. Cameron and The Green Interview) carves out an unique niche in the environmental law education ecosystem by combining legal and journalistic methods. It mixes tools of legal theory, analysis and advocacy with journalistic techniques of documentary film, interviews, biography, blogging and storytelling to bring pressing environmental issues to life.
Allard School of Law JD Seminar
Launched in January 2019, Green Rights and Warrior Lawyers is an elective, semester-long seminar for upper-year students in the JD program at the Allard School of law, where Professor Stepan Wood is the Canada Research Chair in Law, Society and Sustainability.
Around the world, citizens and lawyers are trying to use law to realize the rights of people to live in a healthy environment and the rights of nature to exist and flourish. In this seminar, students explore the theory and practice of environmental rights and public interest legal advocacy through real world case studies of environmental lawyers and defenders on the front lines of struggles to protect people, species and ecosystems in Canada and beyond. Using a range of sources including documentary film, video interviews, guest lectures, biographical materials, news media, case law, legislation and scholarly writing, students select a "warrior lawyer" to profile, make a presentation to the class on that lawyer and their work, and conduct a research project applying lessons from the theory and practice of environmental rights to a current environmental law issue in Canada or abroad.
The seminar is structured around The Green Interview's video interviews with environmental lawyers around the world. Over the semester, we connect live with several of these "warrior lawyers" via video to learn about new developments in their work and lives.
The seminar was co-developed by Professor Stepan Wood of Allard and Dr. Silver Donald Cameron of Cape Breton University and is sometimes offered in parallel with the Cape Breton University course (below), with video-linked classrooms.
Cape Breton University Course
Launched in January 2019 in parallel with the Allard JD seminar (above), Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World is an elective, semester-long course for senior undergraduate students and lifelong learners, offered through Cape Breton University, where Dr. Silver Donald Cameron is the inaugural Farley Mowat Chair in Environmental Communication.
Air, water, food – these are the sources of life. Without them, we die. And in more than 180 nations, citizens are legally entitled to these essential elements of life. From Buenos Aires to Brussels, from the Netherlands to the Philippines, devoted citizens and creative lawyers are using the courtroom to win dramatic, innovative legal battles for Mother Earth. But not in Canada or the United States. Drawing on the films, the video interviews and the book which make up The Green Interview’s multi-media project on environmental rights, www.greenrights.com, this course analyzes the power of human rights to achieve environmental goals. It asks why those rights are not recognized in North America – and whether current lawsuits driven by children and First Nations could secure those rights for citizens of Canada and the US. When possible, the course is offered in a "3C" format: Credit (for students earning degree credit in person or online), Certificate (a non-credit option for students wanting to earn a certificate of participation) and Curiosity (a free option for anyone wishing to follow the classes online). The seminar was co-developed by Professor Stepan Wood of Allard and Dr. Silver Donald Cameron of Cape Breton University and is sometimes offered in parallel with the Allard School of Law JD seminar (above), with video-linked classrooms.
"Warrior Lawyer" Profiles
As part of the Allard School of Law JD Seminar "Green Rights and Warrior Lawyers," students research and write a biographical profile about one of the many lawyers working to advance environmental rights around the world. Many of these lawyers are featured in The Green Interview website. The profiles are published in our blog. As the profiles are issued, they are listed here.
Maxine Burkett: Pursuing Climate Justice for Island Communities
John Borrows: Walking Forward Together Towards Reconciliation
Polly Higgins: Transcending the Corporate Agenda by Outlawing Ecocide
Cormac Cullinan: Wild Lawyer and Earth Jurist
Camille Labchuk: A Voice for the Voiceless
Michelle Maloney: Australia's Awesome Activist
Rafael Maldonado: Struggling for Environmental Justice in Guatemala
Roger Cox: Environmental Revolution Before the Courts
John Bonine: Reinventing Networking as a Legal Tool