Innovating Open Access Legal Education: The First Annual Green Rights & Warrior Lawyers Virtual Academy

Next week the Centre for Law & the Environment at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, will launch an innovative online learning program that is unique in the field of public environmental law education.

The First Annual Green Rights & Warrior Lawyers Virtual Academy (“GRAWL Academy”) will be delivered live online over three days—October 18, November 9 and 10—and will be followed by a collaborative “Inspirathon” in which university students from around the world collaborate to advance knowledge and action.

The GRAWL Academy is not the only online legal educational event on environmental rights and justice that is free and open to the public. Far from it. There are numerous such programs. The GNHRE-UNEP School for Human Rights and the Environment, held most recently in June, 2022, is an excellent example.

What makes the GRAWL Academy different? Unlike other virtual schools and symposia on environmental law, it does not focus on conveying knowledge of the latest legal or political developments in a particular field. Nor does it focus on imparting or critiquing legal principles, rules, decisions or doctrines.

Rather, it focuses on stories and the power of storytelling to bring the relationship between law, environmental rights and environmental justice to life.

The Academy mobilizes the power of personal stories to bring issues of environmental rights and justice to life and inspire action. Over three days, nine courageous “Warrior Lawyers” from five continents and global regions (Africa, Europe, North America, Oceania and Southeast Asia) will share their stories about advancing “Green Rights” through (or sometimes despite) law, and issue a call to action aimed at prompting audience members to act upon what they have learned. Each talk will be followed by reflections by an academic commentator and audience Q&A. The sessions will be streamed live over Zoom, recorded and posted online for free viewing.

A second unique feature of the GRAWL Academy is that each formal session will be followed by a space-limited, informal chat at the virtual “kitchen table” in which a small number of interested audience members who have signed up in advance can engage in a relaxed conversation with the Warrior Lawyer who has just given a public talk.

This is a rare opportunity to interact informally with some of the world’s leaders in environmental justice, sustainable development, the human right to a healthy environment, rights of nature, and Indigenous laws.

The nine featured Warrior Lawyers and corresponding dates (in the Pacific time zone) are:

By sharing their stories, the speakers will shed light on how lawyers and Indigenous legal knowledge holders can use the power of law to fight for environmental justice, the human right to a healthy environment and the rights of non-human beings and ecosystems.

The third unique feature of the GRAWL Academy is the accompanying Inspirathon, an innovative collaborative exercise open to teams of undergraduate and postgraduate university students in any discipline, anywhere in the world. Students will work collaboratively to advance a campaign championed by one of our featured Warrior Lawyers, Tony Oposa, to transform nation-states’ unsustainably exploited Exclusive Economic Zones into sustainably stewarded Enlightened Ecological Zones. This project is part of Tony’s mandate as the Normandy Chair for Peace, the motto of which is “To have peace on Earth, we must have peace with the Earth.”

It is not too late to register to attend any or all of the Academy sessions! Remember, they are free and open to anyone with an interest in the subject.

Stepan Wood

By Stepan Wood

Professor Stepan Wood’s research relates to sustainability, globalization, transnational governance, voluntary environmental standards, climate change, environmental law, corporate social responsibility and social justice. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Law, Society and Sustainability at the Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, where he also directs the Centre for Law & the Environment. His current projects relate to the rights of nature, environmental rights, homelessness, the reception of English law in colonial British Columbia, and the future of the International Organization for Standardization.

From 2011 to 2020 he led the interdisciplinary Transnational Business Governance Interactions (TBGI) project, an international research network examining the drivers, dynamics, and impacts of competition, cooperation, coordination, and conflict among transnational initiatives to regulate global business. His most recent book (co-edited with Kenneth W Abbott and others) is Transnational Business Governance Interactions: Advancing Marginalized Actors and Enhancing Regulatory Quality (Elgar 2019). His earlier book on Canada and globalization co-authored with political economist Stephen Clarkson, A Perilous Imbalance (UBC Press, 2010), was shortlisted for the Donald Smiley award for best book on Canadian politics. Professor Wood is the founding co-chair of the Willms & Shier Moot, Canada’s leading environmental law moot court competition for law students. He is a long-time member of Canada’s national committee on environmental management standards and a Canadian negotiator of ISO 14001 and associated standards at the International Organization for Standardization.

Professor Wood holds an LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School and an SJD from Harvard Law School. He was a law clerk to the late Justice John Sopinka of the Supreme Court of Canada and practised law with White & Case in New York. Before joining the Allard School of Law in 2017, he was Professor and York Research Chair in Environmental Law and Justice at Osgoode Hall Law School, where he was also Editor-in-Chief of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Coordinator of the JD/Master in Environmental Studies joint degree program, acting director of the interdisciplinary Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability and founding co-director of Osgoode’s Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic. He has held visiting appointments around the world, including at the University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of Verona, Bar-Ilan University, the European University Institute, and Northwestern University.