By Alexandra Avery
The W.S. Richardson School of Law, in conjunction with Jindal Global University, hosted a presidential symposium on June 26. Preceding the Courts Initiation July 1, this world wide telecast congress set the stage for the week to come, and the beginning of a new environmental standard in our state. The Outdoor Circle was given numerous accolades for its efforts to further the EC Bill into law.
It was a treat to hear from our lawmakers and world environmental leaders during the day. A historical view of the law was shared by Senator Mike Gabbard, who explained that nine like bills were introduced, and none of them received a Committee hearing. The 2013 opposition to SB 632 deferred the bill, claiming that the judiciary data didn’t demonstrate that an Environmental Court would be necessary at that time.
The tide turned in 2014. An unfortunate series of environmental events occurred and led legislators to look more closely at the EC bill. The Outdoor Circle took up the cause. The molasses spill into Honolulu harbor may have been the last straw. The bill passed the Legislature on April 29. It was signed into law July 7.
Marti Townsend shared the story of how The Outdoor Circle chose to take on the bill, and what happened to generate the grassroots efforts of many. TOC member Jan Dapitan, was honored for her work in bringing the idea of an Environmental Court to Hawaii. Keep America Beautiful and its local chapter Keep Hawaiian Islands Beautiful also supported Jan in her monumental leadership efforts. Together, with the support of many state environmental groups, our efforts prevailed. This past January, Marti and I travelled to D.C. where Keep America Beautiful awarded The Outdoor Circle for its work toward moving the bill into law.
Representative Chris Lee illustrated the scope of environmental protections to be afforded under our new court system. He described how the EC will “help make our justice system more transparent in protecting our environment and enhancing the health and well-being of the people."
The day was moderated by Associate Dean Denise Antolini and Justice Michael Wilson, who both thanked TOC for our united efforts at fostering the passage of the Environmental Court. Denise heralded this big step for Hawaii as ' homegrown island jurisprudence.’ It is the belief of these two leaders that the establishment of our EC will change how people view our resources and our environment; making compliance much more doable.
Special presenter and Chair of India’s Green Tribunal (their Environmental Court) Swatanter Kumar commented on how the dream of a few became the dream of many, and now we have the reality of an EC in our state. He opined that "Hawaii is the ideal environment in the human collective mind” and that we have an honor and a duty as its citizenry to protect it. He emphasized how an Environmental Court is critical to the common good of society.
Dr. Raj Kumar, Vice Chair of Jindal University, introduced the new student exchange partnership with Richardson School. The first Indian exchange students are clerking with Hawaii Supreme Court Justices for the summer (pictured with Dr. Kumar are Ishnoor Saini, Avni Choudhary, Swarnim Swash, and Aprajita Sheel). These enthusiastic students shared about their experience flecking with our Supreme Court Justices, participated in a panel discussion, and assisted with the Pau Hana hosted by Outdoor Circle members. This casual gathering afforded further exchange after a day of exciting presentations focused on how the EC will be modeled.
Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.