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News Release

Environmental Justice Law Society to Present Panel Discussion on Youth and the Environment

Tuesday, March 9, 2021


Vermont Law School’s Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS) will hear from the next generation of community organizers and uncover the future of environmental, climate, racial, and socioeconomic justice when it hosts “Back to the Future: America's Youth Organizing for Environmental Justice” on Saturday, March 13, from 1 to 4 p.m. EST.  
To register for the free event, visit

The event aims to engage youth organizers and discuss their role in community organizing, particularly how to organize peers, building upon the foundation created by previous generations, in a pandemic and in the future.

"It's important that we continue to use this platform to advance environmental justice through education and advocacy while acknowledging the disproportionate burdens placed on vulnerable communities," said Jameson Davis JD'21, EJLS co-chair.

"We chose to highlight youth organizers, in this broader event for community organizing, and amplify their work for future generations of leaders," added Kendall Keelen JD'22, EJLS co-chair.

Featured panelist are Leah Thomas, Justin Onwenu, and Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru.

Thomas is an intersectional environmental activist and eco-communicator. She is passionate about advocating for, and exploring the relationship between, social justice and environmentalism and identifying the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. In 2020, she launched Intersectional Environmentalist, a platform for resources, information, and action steps to support intersectional environmentalism and dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement.

Onwenu is an environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club who as a Detroit-based organizer fights for clean air, clean and affordable water, and a just economy for all communities. His efforts have included advocating for city ordinances that protect drinking water, securing funds for communities in need of air filtration systems, and working with local unions to fight for a just transition.

Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru is an environmental justice advocate, writer and current graduate student at the University of Oxford. She is a first-generation American of Kenyan descent and the first Black person in history to receive the Rhodes, Truman and Udall Scholarships. For her collaboration with other activists and thought leaders, Wawa has been recognized as a 2020 Young Futurist by The Root, a 2020 Grist 50 FIXER, and a 2020 Glamour College Woman of the Year.
This Symposium is presented by Howard Law School and the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and sponsored by Vermont Law School, Shaw University, and the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment. Highlighted organizations include the Greening Youth Foundation, The Black Perspective, and Sunrise Movement.