Students will get a closer look into the field of environmental justice when a panel of four professionals speak at a symposium Wednesday. The event is part of Social Justice Week, an effort by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership that will run from Jan. 26 to Jan. 29.
This year marks the fourth annual Social Justice Week, and the first-ever environmental justice symposium.
Teddy L’houtellier, coordinator for GreenU and Sustainability Manager for UM, initiated the idea for the symposium. After working previously with the Butler Center on projects such as the Green Office Certification Program, he saw Social Justice Week as an opportunity to continue collaboration with the Butler Center and to shed light on environmental issues.
“They were thrilled to do something about environmental justice,” L’houtellier said. “So I said, ‘Let’s do something together.’”
Mikayla Farr and Ja’Shondra Pouncy, co-chairs of Social Justice Week and assistants at the Butler Center, coordinated along with L’houtellier.
From there, L’houtellier contacted Catherine Kaiman, lecturer and practitioner-in-residence at the Center for Ethics and Public Service at the School of Law. Kaiman saw the opportunity to raise awareness about this field locally.
“We want students and other participants to be exposed to what is going on in Miami and Miami-Dade County in terms of our environmental advocacy, environmental law, environmental justice or environmental science,” she said.
Although the symposium is advertised particularly in the School of Law, Social Justice Week invites students from all majors to attend. In fact, L’houtellier expects a “big mix” of students and has tailored the event to suit all majors.
“We purposely asked the panelists not to give a very law-oriented speech because we’ll have a diversity of people in the room,” he said. “So we want the talk to be accessible and understandable to everybody.”
Silverstein also hopes to reach students of all kinds when she speaks at her alma mater.
“I studied marine biology; I never knew I’d work in litigation,” she said. “It’s an important lesson that you don’t know where your career will take you. You need to learn how to best use your skills to make the most difference.”
The four professionals who will serve as panelists are James Porter, Julie Dick, Louise Caro, and Dr. Rachel Silverstein. Each will provide insight into their environmental work based in South Florida.
Porter received his law degree from Florida State University and boasts over 30 years of experience in law and litigation. He hopes to reveal environmental injustice that arises when government action fails to acknowledge environmental protection.
Caro represents people who have been harmed by exposure to environmental hazards, such as pollutants. She was a finalist for the Most Effective Lawyer in the Environmental Law category in the tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the Daily Business Review in 2009.
Dick works at the Everglades Law Center and promotes Everglades restoration. She has also worked with the government on issues relating to water quality, land use and sea level rise.
Silverstein received her doctoral degree in marine biology from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at UM in 2012. After spending a year in Washington, D.C., as a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow and working for a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee devoted to ocean life, she returned to Miami to bring justice to environmental wrongdoers. Most recently, she helped bring a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for damage to coral reefs.