Earth Rights Advocacy Clinic

The Earth Rights Advocacy Clinic (ERA) combines the tools and tactics of international environmental law and human rights to preserve the conditions for life on Earth for current and future generations of humans and non-humans. Working closely with NGOs, scientists, lawyers, social movements, UN agencies, and grassroots communities from around the world, ERA students work on cases and projects involving creative litigation in multiple jurisdictions, transnational advocacy campaigns, and strategic research and communications. ERA’s projects tackle existential challenges to environmental justice and human rights, including the climate emergency, the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems, threats to Indigenous peoples’ rights and territories, the global pollution crisis, and large-scale cruelty to animals and other species.


The seminar focuses on substantive topics and practical skills that future lawyers will need to address the interrelated challenges of social and environmental injustice with the speed and scale that the ongoing planetary emergencies require. Through readings and multimedia materials; problem-solving exercises; and guest lectures by prominent practitioners, scientists, and experts from around the world, we will cover topics such as: the recent convergence between international environmental law and human rights, including strategies to apply the newly recognized international right to a healthy environment; the ongoing wave of rights-based climate change litigation in international and domestic jurisdictions; the profound and disproportionate impact of environmental destruction on the rights of vulnerable communities and the intersections between struggles for environmental justice and struggles against other forms of inequality (from racial, gender, and ethnic inequalities to domestic socioeconomic inequity and North-South global inequalities); the leading role of the transnational Indigenous peoples’ movements in legal actions and campaigns to protect forests and other key ecosystems; rights-based litigation and other legal actions to protect global biodiversity; and the growing trend towards the recognition of animal rights and the rights of nature more broadly.

Students will also develop professional skills that will enable them to contribute to these and other causes. As studies in social innovation and creative lawyering show, solutions to the increasingly complex threats to life on Earth require interdisciplinary tools, effective collaboration across national and organizational borders, and systemic approaches that capture the interconnections between environmental and social challenges. In this spirit, we will discuss and deploy skills such as ecological thinking, collaborative advocacy and lawyering, big data and visual investigations, social movement lawyering, systems analysis, and effective cooperation with scientific experts.

Given the existential nature of the challenges we will address, the seminar promotes reflexivity and introspection about the personal components of our work. What does it mean to be a lawyer in the Anthropocene, the new epoch of Earth’s history in which humans have become the driving planetary force? What type of professional and personal commitments can contribute to developing impactful actions in the time we have left to avert the worst scenarios of the Anthropocene’s environmental and social emergencies? How can we build stronger bridges between the environmental rights movement and other movements for racial, ethnic, economic, and global justice?

Fieldwork and Projects

An additional three-credit clinical option will be available for up to ten students in the seminar. In line with the clinic’s collaborative and global approach, ERA projects are conducted in close partnership with organizations, communities, and individuals in different regions of the world. Projects usually entail a wide range of activities, including on-site fieldwork and data gathering, legal research, strategic planning with local and international networks, and creative communications and narratives work. Serving as strategic partners, legal advisers, counsel or co-counsel, ERA students conduct fieldwork with grassroots communities and local NGOs, contribute to the development of litigation tactics, help launch or nurture transnational advocacy networks and coalitions, and engage with scientists and experts in a wide range of institutions (from scientists’ collectives to UN environmental and human rights bodies).

In 2022-23, ERA projects will include:

César Rodríguez-Garavito
CHRGJ Chair and Faculty Director
Professor of Clinical Law

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