Environmental Law Environmental Failure?

Earth: Too big to fail. That’s the theme of this year’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) Feb. 28 through March 3 at the University of Oregon. But perhaps we should be asking the question: Are we failing the Earth? The beginning of the modern environmental movement is often dated to Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring, but from the more radical Deep Green Resistance to the attorneys from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, some are starting to question whether the planet is any better off than it was in the ’60s and ask conservationists to do things differently.

PIELC this year reflects those perspectives and more. Keynote speaker Nnimmo Bassey of Nigeria fights environmental degradation and human rights abuses with lawsuits and with poetry. Fellow keynoter Thuli Brilliance Makama of Swaziland (one of only two female keynoters this year) faces backlash in her country not only for her activism but also for being a woman. Panels range from wonky talks on administrative petitions to discussions of direct action, and all of them reflect the diversity of perspectives on how to protect ecosystems from coal, tar sands and a myriad of other threats. The Willamette Valley only gets this international confluence of activists, legal minds and action in one place, at one time, once a year. For a full schedule (registration is free, donations are possible) go to pielc.org and don’t miss the march against resource extraction at 1 pm on Sunday, March 3, kicking off at the Erb Memorial Union on campus.

The other day

We danced in the street

Joy in our hearts

We thought we were free

Three young folks fell to our right

Countless more fell to our left

Looking up,

Far from crowd

We beheld

Red-hot guns

We thought it was oil

But it was blood.

From “We Thought It Was Oil But It Was Blood,” by Nnimmo Bassey