Pielc 2023

On the Road Again: Renewing an ELC Team-building Tradition

2023 Pielc Elc Dinner 1

After a three-year hiatus, ELC staff and Club members travelled to Eugene, Oregon in early March for the 41st annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). The largest of its kind, PIELC attracts 3,000+ lawyers, students, activists, scientists, policy makers, and concerned citizens from around the world each year to participate in panels and workshops, hear inspiring keynote speakers, and make or deepen connections in the public interest environmental law field.

With the climate crisis and many other dire environmental problems in the world, public interest environmental law can be a daunting path. Somehow, learning about the work others are doing and hearing about solutions to common problems from engaged folks is reassuring.

There was a cornucopia of panel choices on current or emerging environmental issues: from fighting climate disinformation to problem-solving clean energy transitions, to the importance of urban canopies, to protecting vital watersheds through community action, to movement lawyering and to decolonizing law. An overarching conversation that was particularly inspiring was hearing how communities are pushing for meaningful environmental justice. Speaking on the Environmental Justice in Practice panel, lawyers from the Crag Law Center and Beyond Toxics talked about their approach towards incorporating environmental justice through sharing information, transparency, and reflecting on how their learning about environmental justice is changing what they do. Like the ELC, their work is done in partnership with clients. They spoke about reducing legacy pollution, developing pollution screening tools, and keeping communities involved in decision-making processes and actions that directly affect them but to which they would not have otherwise had a voice.

This year’s ELC crew consisted of 23 law students and six staff. Keeping with tradition, Calvin played his guitar (on the bow of the Coho), and we gathered as a group for the traditional Saturday night ELC dinner. (We were delighted to run into two ELC alumni, now practicing in a private Aboriginal law firm and for government.) Reflecting on the trip, many students said they came back feeling inspired and motivated, and they deeply appreciated the community-building experience the trip offered.