Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
University of Oregon School of Law
Eugene, Oregon
2012 PIELC Speakers


Atmospheric Trust Litigation Plaintiffs

Kelly Matheson is an attorney, filmmaker, and human rights advocate who oversees WITNESS’ work in North America. WITNESS is an international human rights organization that uses the power of video and storytelling to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. At WITNESS, Kelly worked to launch the first Video Advocacy Institute. She then turned her attention to the human rights issues in the United States co-producing and co-directing films about abuse and neglect of older Americans, the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and climate justice. As an attorney, she worked as a Law Fellow in Tanzania researching citizens’ rights to bring suit against their governments when governments broke their own laws. She also spent a year as a Fulbright Researcher in Congo, where she collaborated with a video-centered outreach project to determine the effectiveness of video to change health and conservation practices.

Alec Loorz is a 17-year-old climate change activist. He founded Kids vs. Global Warming when he was 12 years old after watching Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Feeling the weight of the global crisis and a sense that he could make a difference, Alec felt compelled to tell other kids about the problems facing the world. His message is rooted in hope, encouraging kids to speak up and let their voices be heard. Alec creates presentations specifically for youth, full of videos, animation, easy-to-understand science, and compelling motivation for kids K-college ages. He gave over 30 global warming presentations before being invited by Al Gore to be formally trained with the Climate Project in October of 2008. He is now their youngest U.S. trained presenter.

Nelson Kanuk is a 17-year-old native Alaskan from the village of Kipnuk. The oldest of five children, Nelson wants to share his story about how climate change is affecting his part of the world. Winters are coming late and ice sheets and permafrost are melting, causing land erosion – Nelson’s family has lost eight feet of land in the past year, and have another 40 feet before the bank of the river reaches their home. He is asking the Alaska government for help in fighting climate change, because his family’s livelihood is at risk.

John Thiebes is a 23-year-old, first-generation farmer in North Central Montana, an area known as the golden triangle. Montana has raised, educated, protected, and provided him with his most basic of rights, one of which he is currently fighting for Montana to recognize. John is finishing up his last year at Montana State University and upon graduation will pursue a life in sustainable agriculture. He wants to create an agricultural system that is ecologically regenerative and less dependent on fossil fuels.

Climbing PoeTree

Climbing PoeTree is the combined force of two boundary-breaking soul-sisters who have sharpened their art as a tool for popular education, community organizing, and personal transformation. With roots in Haiti and Colombia, Alixa and Naima reside in Brooklyn and track footprints across the country and globe on a mission to make a better future visible, immediate, and irresistible. “Soul-stirring” and “heart-opening”, the poetry Alixa and Naima deliver challenges its listeners to remember their humanity, dissolves apathy with hope, exposes injustice, and helps heal our inner trauma so that we may begin to cope with the issues facing our communities.

Alixa and Naima’s performance explores diverse themes, including healing from state and personal violence, environmental justice, civil rights, spirituality, global politics, and woman’s empowerment. Through a tapestry of spoken-word poetry, video projection, and movement choreography, their most recent work Hurricane Season connects the issues that surfaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the unnatural disasters disenfranchised communities are experiencing nationwide and worldwide on a daily basis.

The Brower Family

David Brower was a preeminent environmental activist and the founder of many environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club Foundation, the John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies, Friends of the Earth, and the League of Conservation Voters. He is considered by many to be the father of modern environmentalism, championing dam busting, wilderness protection, and political activism, David’s work inspires current environmentalists to always work for a cleaner future. This year, the conference celebrates the 100th anniversary of David’s birth.

Barbara Brower is a Professor of Geography at Portland State University and is the daughter of David Brower. Her research interests include wildland resource conservation and policy, and the environmental movement. She is passionately committed to preserving her father’s legacy through her involvement with the Glen Canyon Institute.

Ken Brower is the oldest son of David Brower. His earliest memories are of following his father down various trails in the wild country of the American West. He is a regular contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, Audubon, Smithsonian, and other journals and publications. He is the co-author of a half-dozen books, most recently Freeing Keiko: The Journey of a Killer Whale from ‘Free Willy’ to the Wild

Dr. Tyrone Hayes

Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes is a biologist, herpetologist, and a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the role of steroid hormones in amphibian development, and he conducts both laboratory and field studies in the United States and Africa. Tyrone’s childhood fascination with science led him to earn an undergraduate degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Tyrone’s primary research focuses on the role of environmental factors on growth and development in amphibians. Tyrone’s research has revealed that the widely used herbicide atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes exposed male amphibians at levels deemed safe by the U.S. EPA. According to Tyrone, the preponderance of the evidence shows that atrazine is indeed a risk to other wildlife, as well as humans.

In addition to scientific interests, exposure to atrizine also raises issues of environmental justice. Citizens in lower socio-economic strata—and, in particular, ethnic minorities—are less likely to have information about the effects of pesticides, more likely to live in areas where they are exposed to pesticides, and are less likely to have access to appropriate health care. Tyrone’s findings reveal a crucial new link between conservation and health.

Richard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg is the Senior Fellow-in-Residence at the Post Carbon Institute in Santa Rosa, California. Author of ten books, including The Party’s Over, Peak Everything, and The End of Growth, Richard is widely regarded as one of the world’s most effective communicators of the urgent need to transfer away from fossil fuels.

Richard is best known as a leading educator in Peak Oil and the resulting devastating impact it will have on our economic, food, and transportation systems. Richard’s expertise is far ranging, however, and covers critical issues including the current economic crisis, food and agriculture, community resilience, and global climate change.

Richard’s latest book, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, makes a compelling argument that the global economy has reached a fateful, fundamental turning point. It describes what policymakers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth’s budget of energy and resources. It posits that we can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human and environmental well-being, rather than continuing to pursue the now-unattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP.

Richard has presented in dozens of countries and across the United States. He has been featured in many documentaries, including End of Suburbia and the film 11th Hour, and is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education.

Lisa Heinzerling

Lisa Heinzerling is a Professor of Law at Georgetown University. Her specialties include environmental and natural resources law, administrative law, the economics of regulation, and food and drug law. She has a strong record as a committed public servant. Lisa served as Senior Climate Policy Counsel to the Administrator of the EPA, the Associate Administrator of EPA’s Office of Policy, and as a member of President Obama’s EPA transition team.

Lisa has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, Vermont Law School, and Yale Law School. She lectures frequently on environmental law and other topics both in the U.S. and around the world. She has published several books, including a leading casebook (with Zygmunt Plater and others) on environmental law. Lisa has also continued to litigate cases in environmental law while teaching at Georgetown University. Most prominently, she served as lead author of the winning briefs in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Supreme Court held that the Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. A 2009 survey of over 400 environmental lawyers and law professors ranked this case as the most significant case in all of environmental law.

Professor Zygmunt Plater

Zygmunt Plater is a law professor at Boston College Law School, specializing in environmental, property, land use, and administrative law. Over the past thirty years, he has been a seminal advocate for environmental protection and land use regulation, most notably serving as petitioner and lead counsel in the extended Tennessee Valley Authority’s Tellico Dam litigation. In that role, he advocated for the endangered snail darter, farmers, Cherokee Indians, and environmentalists in the Supreme Court of the United States.

As a result of his additional experience as chairman of the State of Alaska Oil Spill CommissionÂ’s Legal Task Force after the Exxon Valdez wreck, Zyg was ideally positioned to consult on responses to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Zyg has taught on numerous law faculties and has consulted on legal issues around the world, including in Ethiopia, where he redrafted the laws protecting parks and refuges, assisted in publication of the Consolidated Laws of Ethiopia, and helped organize the first United Nations Conference on Individual Rights in Africa. Land Air Water honored Professor Plater with the David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Craig Rosebraugh

Craig Rosebraugh is a prominent political filmmaker, writer, and activist from the Pacific Northwest who focuses his attention on social, political, and environmental justice issues. He was integral to the creation of such organizations as the Liberation Collective, the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front, the Coalition to End Primate Experimentation, and Responsible Education and Media He has suffered broken bones, been arrested, and been the target of investigations, all because of his political activism. However, Craig continues to organize and speak out about the social, political, and environmental injustice he sees in the world.

Most recently, Craig has given his attention to filmmaking, addressing the BP oil calamity in the gulf in his new documentary Greedy Lying Bastards. In his film, Craig examines the interwoven political and economic web of lax environmental policy, lobbying, and profiteering, and how the oil industry directly works to more closely weave this web. Craig untangles this story by interviewing those directly affected by climate change, as well as through investigative journalism, and soliciting opinions from experts.

Craig continues to speak out on important issues, both through the media and in political channels. He has testified in Congress against improper policy, been interviewed by major news outlets like ABC News and NPR.

Lucia Xiloj

Lucia Xiloj, a K’iche’ Maya attorney, is a human rights advocate with the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation in Guatemala. The foundation publicizes the challenges facing native Guatemalans and promotes indigenous peoples’ rights around the world.

Lucia is a zealous advocate for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala. With specialties in constitutional and criminal law, Lucia’s most recent work is focused on challenging the mining rights granted to multinational entities without consideration for indigenous peoples’ rights. Lucia also worked on other issues affecting indigenous peoples’ rights. Working with Guatemalan municipalities, Lucia helped ensure healthy and clean water for locals by helping develop better pollution containment and environmentally friendly waste treatment practices. She has also worked on the issue of transitional justice, specifically based on the prosecution of cases in the armed conflict as a contribution in combating impunity in Guatemala.



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