The Stein Scholars Program and Environmental Law Advocates joined together this semester to remind students how important it is to protect and enjoy the environment and consider getting involved in environmental justice legal advocacy work.
On Wednesday, April 5, the Stein Scholars Program hosted a panel on environmental justice that featured three prominent voices in the movement to discuss efforts in community activism, education, and litigation.
Specifically, Albert Huang, who directs the environmental justice work at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), provided an introduction to environmental justice as a movement that combines fundamental elements of environmentalism and social justice, before discussing some of the environmental justice cases NRDC has litigated around the country. Cecil Corbin-Mark, the deputy director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, encouraged students to define and discuss the concept of racism, before talking about some of the projects his organization has been involved in to fight environmental racism in New York City. Finally, Rebecca Bratspies, a professor of law at the CUNY School of Law and director of the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform, spoke about the collaborative work with the artist Charlie LaGreca to create Mayah’s Lot, an environmental justice comic book that is utilized in the classroom setting to educate children and mobilize communities around the country. Approximately 40 people attended the event; the panel was followed by a brief Q&A.
A few weeks later, Stein Scholars turned out for Environmental Law Advocates’ service day on Sunday, April 23, the day after Earth Day. Approximately ten students gathered in Central Park to help on a project that was organized by the Central Park Conservancy. They removed invasive plants, such as lesser celandine, from a section of the park near 110th Street, by the Dana Discovery Center. While it may not have been glamorous work, the students’ efforts contributed to preserving and improving green space for the broader good.
Additionally, Stein Scholar Jake Hays ’17 was instrumental in providing another opportunity for students to take a break from studies and experience the outdoors. In conjunction with ELA, he helped organize a spring hike to Breakneck Ridge, which runs along the Hudson River. Students accessed the trailhead via the Metro-North Hudson Line. At the same time, Jake was busy overseeing the group’s toner recycling project for the last time during his law school career. ELA collects, packages, and returns expended printer toner cartridges to a distributor, thereby doing their part to clean up the environment, while raising funds to support their programs. This semester, ELA recycled 104 units and raised close to $100.