PIELC Review: ‘Running into Running Out’

by Cooper Brinson, Will Carlon, Nathaniel Gurol, Gordon Levitt, and Mallory Woodman

The 32nd Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) was held at the University of Oregon February 27–March 2, 2014. This was the first year that PIELC keynotes were available live on YouTube; the keynotes may be viewed here.

As the organizers of PIELC 2014, we chose the theme “Running into Running Out” to urgently convey how the resources necessary for humanity’s survival are in peril. The conference began with Michael Pavel introducing the conference with a traditional indigenous ceremony that got the EMU Ballroom buzzing for the opening keynote addresses by Wen Tiejun and Zhihe Wang, which discussed China’s path to an ecological civilization. Their presentation was followed by Lierre Keith’s speech on how civilization is the root of environmental degradation.

On Friday, Jane Lubchenco, former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Patrick Parenteau, Vermont Law School professor, delivered keynotes focusing on the connections between science and policy and the importance of building genuine relationships across political divides. For the evening keynote, Stephen Corry from Survival International and Mary Pavel, chief counsel for the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, discussed the historical dimensions of environmentalism, development, and indigenous peoples.

Saturday’s first set of keynoters—Lauren Regan, of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, and Richard Monje, from the Service Employees International Union’s Workers United and Move to Amend— provided an insightful take on innovative coalition-building for the environmental movement. Next, representatives from the Amungme and Kamoro tribes of West Papua spoke about the damage done presentation highlighted the costs of modernity.

Saturday evening’s keynotes began with the world premier of the 10th film in the series: Stories of Trust: Youth Calling for Climate Recovery. Following the film, James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, discussed how climate science should guide environmental policy. Next, University of Oregon law professor Mary Wood spoke eloquently about the potential of the Public Trust Doctrine to remedy modern environmental damage.

On Sunday, Heather Milton-Lightening, codirector of the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign, and Jill Stein, 2012 Green Party presidential candidate, delivered powerful keynotes to conclude PIELC 2014. They spoke about the growing movement to stop dirty energy, promote renewable energy, and build healthier communities.

Looking back on the conference, one of Professor Wood’s statements will stick with us. During her keynote, she thanked Land, Air, Water for organizing PIELC, saying that we will never know 99 percent of the synapses that we facilitated, but that these conversations will have transformative impacts. We too want to thank the team of PIELC gurus and volunteers, the staff and faculty of the law school, and all of the conference attendees for making this year’s conference a resounding success. We cannot wait to see what next year’s organizers will bring to PIELC 2015.

Cooper Brinson is marketing director for Land, Air, Water. Will Carlon is codirector of Land, Air, Water. Nathaniel Gurol is operations editor for the Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation. Gordon Levitt is codirector of Land, Air, Water and a Bowerman fellow for the ENR Conservation Trust Project. Mallory Woodman is treasurer for Student Legal Advocates for Tribal Sovereignty. They are all third-year students at the University of Oregon School of Law.