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Tour of Area Toxic Hot Spots to Cap Environmental Symposium

By Andrew Cohen

Berkeley Law’s 6th annual Environmental Justice Symposium features a week-long series of free programs that focus on the nexus of grassroots social change, environmental protection, and civil and human rights. Entitled Environmental Justice: Lawyers and Community Partnering for Change, the event runs from February 16–20.

The symposium is co-hosted by the law school’s Students for Economic & Environmental Justice (SEEJ) and Environmental Law Society (ELS), which began collaborating in July 2009 to transform a one-day conference to a much broader exploration of intersecting issues. A schedule of events is available here.

SEEJ co-founder and ELS President Jamie Lee Williams ’11 says the format shift was designed to “increase awareness and involvement with a broader base of Berkeley students” as well as the greater social justice community, and to “encourage consciousness and awareness around the environmental justice implications underlying so many aspects of legal action and policy.” Symposium co-sponsors include the Berkeley Journal of International Law; Boalt Hall Committee for Human Rights; California Law Review; Center for Law, Energy & the Environment; Ecology Law Quarterly; Human Rights Center; Graduate Assembly; and Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger.

The keynote event is Thursday night’s screening of Maquilápolis: City of Factories—a documentary on women laborers’ struggle for humane workplace conditions and environmental justice in factories along the U.S.-Mexico border. Afterward, there will be a discussion with Mexican labor rights activists who are maquiladora organizers. Williams hopes the event will inspire those in attendance “to ask themselves what role we have as future lawyers and future change-makers, in working with people at the ground level, to help make their efforts more powerful and more sustainable.”

The symposium concludes Saturday with a “Toxic Tour of Environmental Justice Hot Spots” in West Oakland. It will be led by Margaret Gordon, a local environmental justice movement leader and co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. If interested in the tour—which includes transportation, lunch, and a post-tour discussion—RSVP to and meet at 9:45 a.m. by Kroeber Fountain, on the corner of College Avenue and Bancroft Way.