2023 Symposium

The Symposium will tentatively take place on the following dates:

Friday, February 10, 2023
Saturday, February 11, 2023

Symposium Program 2023 Overview

This year’s symposium, titled An Unequal Burden: Exploring Environmental Justice and the Climate Crisis, will focus on the increasingly important legal field of environmental law. The discussion throughout the two day event will look at the unequal burden shouldered by different communities from the climate crisis and the way the environmental justice legal movement is working to right historic wrongs. The program will include examination through a variety of subjects, such as Miami-centric issues, labor and immigration, indigenous approaches, climate racism and human rights, and just energy transitions. Through the Climate Resilience Academy, the University of Miami has demonstrated a renewed determination to address the climate crisis on our own campus. We hope that the 2023 Symposium will bring the University community as well legal community together and provide a platform for these important issues that will impact us all for decades to come.

Schedule of Events

February 10, 2023 – Presenting the Problems

Opening Keynote Address

We are proud to announce Shalanda Baker as our keynote speaker for this year’s symposium. She is the current Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy. Previously she was the professor of law, public policy, and urban affairs at the Northeastern University School of Law. She is also the co-founder and director of the Initiative for Energy Justice. 

Panel 1: Climate Racism and Human Rights 

This panel will examine the disproportionate burden shouldered by communities of color in the climate crisis. It will touch on issues such as green space inequities, and climate gentrification by highlighting the unequal impact environmental enforcement has in communities of color. It will also look at toxic tort cases and health impacts. 


  • Professor Marcia Narine Weldon – Director of the Transactional Skills Program; Faculty Coordinator, Business Compliance and Sustainability Concentration at the University of Miami School of Law (Moderator).
  • Clifford Villa – Senior Advisor to the EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management; University of New Mexico Law Professor; and Former EPA legal counsel on disaster response.
  • Jacqueline Patterson – Founder & Executive Director of the Chisholm Legacy Project – A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership; former Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.
  • Nadia Ahmad – Associate Professor at Barry University School of Law and the Coordinator of the Environmental and Earth Law Certificate Program.

Panel 2: Employment, Labor, and Immigration

This panel will focus on heat inequities and workplace safety issues that have become more pressing due to climate change. It will look at our current enforcement mechanisms and where those enforcements are failing as well as discuss the laborers who bear the brunt of climate change. It will focus predominantly on farm workers and outdoor laborers with an emphasis on the intersection of workplace hazard and immigration status by looking at seasonal migrant laborers and the undocumented workforce. 


  • Andrew Elmore – Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Law (Moderator).
  • Joan Flocks – University of Florida Director of Social Policy for the Center for Government Responsibility. 
  • Oscar Londono – Co-executive director of WeCount! and former Skadden fellow working to develop heat standards in Florida.

Art Walk at the Shalala Center: Reclaiming Spaces through Creative Expression

This art walk will be an optional event after the first day of speakers. It will feature artists throughout Miami who are using art as a way to make a statement on climate change as well as reclaim public space. It will be a chance to interact with the environmental justice concept in a different, less formalistic fashion and will invite attendees to see the art in our community.


  • Xavier Cortada – Professor of Practice at the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History; inaugural Artist-in-Residence for Miami-Dade County.

February 11, 2023 – Understanding Solutions

Panel 3: The Indigenous Foundations of Environmental Justice

This panel will invite indigenous legal leaders to discuss the ways they are tackling environmental justice issues in their communities. It will be an opportunity to hear about environmental justice issues outside of the United States government and business model and appreciate a different approach that we can implement to local issues. The panel will look at the unique issues indigenous communities face such as the North Dakota access pipeline and international issues like rainforest depletion.

Lunch Coffee Talk: The Future of Miami’s Communities

This will be an informal talk held in between the two Saturday panels where attendees are invited to bring their lunch and ask questions to Miami leaders and practitioners about local issues. It will talk about unique climate change issues in Miami and current efforts to stem the tide of climate catastrophe for our city’s most at risk communities. 

Conversation Leader:

  • Abigail Fleming – Mysun Foundation Practitioner-in-Residence at the Environmental Justice Clinic; faculty in the Environmental Law Program at the University of Miami School of Law.


  • Theresa Pinto – University of Miami School of Law Alumna and founder of the PEER Group. 
  • Adrian Madriz – Founder of SMASH.
  • Elizabeth Fata Carpenter – Managing Attorney for Everglades Law Center and City Council Member for El Portal.

Panel 4: Energy Law and a Just Transition for the Future

This panel will examine the ways in which law and policy can create an equitable energy future by looking at tax incentives, collective action, and current policy initiatives. It will examine small-scale house remodels such as insulation and heat-monitoring initiatives as well as look at broader policy agendas such as tax incentives for business energy transitions. 


  • Jessica Owley – Professor of Law and Faculty Director for the Environmental Law Program at the University of Miami School of Law (Moderator).
  • Rebecca Bratspies – Law Professor at CUNY School of Law and Director for Center for Urban Environmental Reform. 
  • Melissa Powers – Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School; Director of the Green Energy Institute; and Adjunct Professor at the University of Miami School of Law.
  • Uma Outka – William R. School Law Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law.