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.