Land and Water Protection

Renata Happle

Political Ecology

Barnard College of Columbia University

Land and Water Protection

10:00 [AM] 25 June, 2022


From Regulation to Responsibility: Reframing Environmental Stewardship Towards Interconnection

An exciting dive into the new frontier of American environmentalism. Discussions on advocacy strategies for communities all around the country using courts and the power of the people.


Elizabeth M. Dunne, Esq

Elizabeth is Director of Legal Advocacy, for Earth Law Center and brings 20 years of legal experience and a passion for designing legal frameworks that enable systemic change. She has advanced many of the groundbreaking Rights of Nature laws in the US and co-authored the US Chapter of the first Earth Law textbook – Zelle et al. (Eds.), Earth Law: Emerging Ecocentric Law—A Guide for Practitioners (Aspen Coursebook, Wolters Kluwer 2020). The story of her former client Grant Township’s fight against a frack waste injection well, based in part on the state constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, is featured in the award-winning documentary, Invisible Hand ( She specializes in drafting laws for Tribal Nations, state and local governments, and ballot initiatives. Drawing on her experience as lead counsel in public interest class-action lawsuits and as a law clerk to US federal District Court judges, Elizabeth is a leading practitioner in the development of litigation strategies that advance Earth Law. 

Karen Coulter 

Karen co-founded the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project with Asante Riverwind in 1991. Karen has been fighting to defend and restore forests on public lands in eastern Oregon ever since then. In the early days of the Project, she field-checked timber sales on horseback. Karen spent over 14 years living off-grid with her family and their livestock in rural eastern Oregon. Their teepee home and most of their belongings were lost during a wildfire. Karen now lives in a more fire resistant straw bale cabin on the eastside.

Karen has 30 years of experience doing public lands advocacy as the Director of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project. She has been surveying timber sales every summer since the project’s inception. Karen has long-term and first-hand familiarity with the ecology of the region, as well as an extensive understanding of land management issues. Karen is an extremely effective and passionate voice for forests. She asserts that: “human and ecological issues are indivisible. Humans are rapidly destroying the planet—the forests, the oceans, species biodiversity, and the global climate. We must deal with social and political inequality and injustice in order to stop ecological devastation.”

Karen is a long-time activist, and has dedicated her life to environmental and social justice causes. Her past work includes international negotiations on acid rain and ozone depletion for Greenpeace International, and campaigning to stop the Reagan era MX missile plans with the American Friends Service Committee. She has also been part of the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, which was formed by an alliance of environmentalists and labor union organizers. She was a principal activist of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy, and did research, writing, and speaking about the history of the rise of corporate power in the U.S. and lessons from past activists’ struggles. Her principles for protection of the wild are based on Deep Ecology and Biocentrism. She has a master’s of English from Reed College.

Markie Miller 

Markie Miller is a Rights of Nature advocate in Toledo, Ohio. In 2014, nearly 500,000 people in and around her community lost access to clean and safe drinking water for three days due to a toxic algal bloom in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. This crisis was the catalyst for her work and passion for the Rights of Nature Movement. She played a crucial role in petitioning, campaigning, and eventually passing the Lake Erie Bill of Rights – a local law recognizing the legal right of Lake Erie to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve. She is an ambassador for the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and the Rights of Nature, speaking at the United Nations, appearing on The Daily Show, and numerous local, national and international media outlets.

Renata Happle  

Renata (Moderator) is a rising Junior at Barnard College of Columbia University studying political ecology and dabbling in political science. She is an intern at Earth Law Center, and an Arthur Liman Public Interest Law Summer Fellow with Yale Law School. She lives in New York City with her six roommates.