2023 Symposium

The Symposium will take place at the Lakeside Expo Center.

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1.0 Ethics
9.0 General

2023 Symposium Program 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. The Symposium will feature the first global preview of artist Xavier Cortada’s video installation Underwater Florida. 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.


February 10, 2023 – Presenting the Problems

Welcome and Opening Remarks by Dean David Yellen (1:15 P.M. – 1:30 P.M.)

Opening Keynote Address (1:30 P.M. – 2:15 P.M.)

Shalanda H. Baker is the Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy and Secretarial Advisor on Equity. Prior to her Senate confirmation, she served as the Nation’s first-ever Deputy Director for Energy Justice. Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, she was a Professor of Law, Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. She has spent over a decade conducting research on the equity dimensions of the global transition away from fossil fuel energy to cleaner energy resources. 

She is the author of over a dozen articles, book chapters, and essays on renewable energy law, energy justice, energy policy, and renewable energy development. In 2016, she received a Fulbright-Garcia-Robles research fellowship to study climate change, energy policy, and indigenous rights in Mexico. She is the Co-Founder and former Co-Director of the Initiative for Energy Justice (www.iejusa.org), an organization committed to providing technical law and policy support to communities on the frontlines of climate change. 

Her book, Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition (Island Press 2021), argues that the technical terrain of energy policy should be the next domain to advance civil rights. She received her BS from the United States Air Force Academy and JD from Northeastern University School of Law. She obtained her LLM while serving as a William H. Hastie Fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Law.

Panel I: Climate Racism and Human Rights (2:30 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.)

This panel will examine the disproportionate burden shouldered by communities of color in the climate crisis. This will provide an important foundation for the Symposium, explaining Environmental Justice and related work. It will touch on issues such as green space inequities, and climate gentrification by highlighting the unequal impact environmental enforcement has on 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.


  • 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.
  • Doug Ruley – Incoming Director of the Environmental Justice Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law.

Panel II: Employment, Labor, and Immigration (4:15 P.M. – 5:45 P.M.)

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.


  • 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.

First Day Closing Remarks & Participatory Art Experience (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)

The Symposium hosts the global preview of artist Xavier Cortada’s Underwater Florida, a video installation showcasing the artist’s climate-focused performances across 56 coastal Florida city halls. Professor Cortada will deliver remarks to close the first day. His speech is entitled “Mobilizing Climate Constituencies through Socially Engaged Art.” The Cortada Foundation, led by Adam Roberti, will engage attendees in two of Cortada’s participatory art projects: HELLO (first launched during COP26, it is aimed at reframing the way we see one another and our collective vulnerability to the climate crisis) and The Underwater (which uses data-driven public art installations to spark awareness and action around sea level rise). Remarks will be followed by a social reception with light food and drinks for participants.


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

February 11, 2023 – Understanding Solutions

Day II Keynote Address (10:00 A.M. – 10:45 A.M.)

Mary Kathryn Nagle is an attorney, playwright, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Ms. Nagle earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and her juris doctor from Tulane University Law School, where she graduated summa cum laude. Upon graduation from law school, Ms. Nagle clerked in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, and subsequently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Ms. Nagle has devoted her work to fighting for the rights and sovereignty of Native nations, using both her legal advocacy and playwright skills at the intersection of justice and drama. Ms. Nagle has drafted and filed numerous briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States. She has also been published in five different law reviews.

Panel III: The Indigenous Foundations of Environmental Justice (11:00 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.)

This panel will invite indigenous legal leaders to discuss ways they are tackling environmental justice issues in their communities. Indigenous communities contribute to environmental justice in many ways, including reviving Indigenous food sovereignty to control their health and well-being and offering solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Speakers will discuss the contribution of local and indigenous communities in building solutions rooted in their traditional ecological knowledge despite laws and regulations.


  • Denisse Cordova Montes – University of Miami School of Law Acting Associate Director for the Human Rights Clinic and former Coordinator for the Gender and Women’s Rights Program at FIAN International.


  • Caroline LaPorte – Associate Judge at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; attorney and judicial advisor to Tribal Court of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; and Director of the Tribal Safe Housing Center at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
  • Tara Houska – Founder of Giniw Collective, TED Speaker, and tribal attorney.
  • Mariaelena Huambachano – Assistant Professor and leader in helping to build the Global Indigenous Cultures and Environmental Justice Department and Center at Syracuse University.

Lunch Talk: The Future of Miami’s Communities (12:45 P.M. – 1:45 P.M.)

This talk will be held in between the two Saturday panels. Lunch will be provided. Attendees are invited to ask questions to Miami leaders and practitioners about local issues. Speakers 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. Topics will include Miccosukee Tribe collaboration with governments and NGOs on Everglades restoration efforts.


  • 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 – Lecturer in Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami, Founder of PEER Group, and University of Miami Law School Alumnus. 
  • Edward Randall Ornstein (Southeastern Mvskoke Nation) – Staff Attorney for the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and Vice-Chair for the ABA Native American Resources Committee.
  • Elizabeth Fata Carpenter – Managing Attorney for Everglades Law Center and City Council Member for El Portal.

Panel IV: Energy Law and a Just Transition for the Future (2:00 P.M. – 3:30 P.M.)

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. The discussion will include the evolving concepts of energy justice and “energy communities” in US law and the role this plays in defining the landscape for energy transitions centered on racial equity. Speakers plan to discuss the Inflation Reduction Act’s likely impact on the energy transition.


  • Jessica Owley – Professor of Law and Faculty Director for the Environmental Law Program at the University of Miami School of Law.


  • 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. Scott Law Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law.  

Symposium Sponsors

We would like to thank this year’s symposium sponsors, Cortada and LAFAC. Their support is greatly appreciated.