September 13, 2021
This summer, I remotely completed a 12-week internship with East Coast Environmental Law, funded by the Schulich Academic Excellence Fund for Internships. I approached East Coast Environmental Law with the hope of learning more about environmental law and furthering my interest in public legal education. Under the supervision of Lisa Mitchell and the assistance of recent Schulich graduate Dan White, I developed a youth workshop on rights of nature.
Freshly introduced to the dynamic topic of rights of nature, I explored the subject by reading books such as The Rights of Nature by David Boyd, and I conducted legal research on environmental racism, animal rights, Indigenous worldviews, and relevant environmental laws. Since the topic covered such a wide range, the most challenging part of my work was developing a deep understanding of the content to synthesize it in a way that youth could easily understand.
As it is currently planned, the workshop will offer youth an introduction to the topic of rights of nature. It will encourage youth to see how one community may view nature as exploitable, privately owned property, while another may view it as an entity deserving the rights for self-protection. Thought-provoking questions such as “Could rivers have rights?” are explored through a case study looking at the Muteshekau-shipu River (Magpie River) in Quebec—the first river in Canada to have its legal personhood recognized by local governments. A separate section on animal rights explores several at-risk species in the Atlantic provinces. Guided through an overview of the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act and Biodiversity Act, youth will learn how current laws can be viewed as stepping stones towards the protection of at-risk species.
The COVID-19 pandemic opened new doors to online learning and gave us the opportunity to come up with exciting virtual exercises for the workshop. Part of my summer was spent experimenting with virtual learning tools and creating activities with which youth across the country could engage. I was also able to work on the development of an informational animation about Lucy the Elephant, who continues to live in captivity at the Edmonton Zoo. Essentially, this workshop became an accumulation of my learnings over the summer, and I desired to share it with future youth in the most engaging way possible.
Overall, I could not have asked for a better introduction to environmental law this summer. East Coast Environmental Law not only provided me with the friendly support and guidance I needed to adapt but also encouraged self-direction and creative freedom in my project. Working with East Coast Environmental Law this summer helped to reconfirm my passion for public legal education and gave me a taste of how fulfilling working in the field of environmental law can be. I look forward to maintaining my relationship with East Coast Environmental Law in the future.
Sally's work with us was funded by the Schulich Academic Excellence Fund for internships—a program administered by the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University.