This blog reflects on a recent event hosted by the Unit which illustrates the centrality of students to the work of the Unit. It is customary in research terms to distinguish between ‘research’ and ‘taught’ students, with research students aiming to produce original, rigorous and significant research in a mirror to that of academic staff. Yet undergraduate students can be very keen to shape academic debate, as illustrated by the innovative undergraduate environmental law conference hosted by the Unit on March 22. The day long event was attended by students of environmental law at Bristol University, University of the West of England (UWE), Swansea University, and Cardiff University.
This is the third year the conference has run, adding to last year’s event at Bristol University, and the inaugural conference at UWE in 2015. Each year the number of institutions participating has grown, and there is clearly potential for it to grow further. As on previous occasions, the event was divided by the student and staff organisers into themes, corresponding with panels of student presenters, each guided by a student chairperson. The event is co-organised by a nominated student of the hosting institution – in this case Jack Woods, assisted by Rosel Tan of Bristol, Jon Tan of UWE, and Ceri Noble. The staff helpers were Tory Jenkins and Karen Morrow of Swansea, Onita Das of UWE, and Janine Sargoni of Bristol.
Panel One concerned human rights and the environment. It was led largely by students of Swansea University for whom this has been a central theme of assessment this year. A special thanks should go to Felicity Zackers, for getting the event off to a super start. The second panel concerned climate change law, and it was very popular with students from Bristol, UWE and our own. The afternoon was given over to a panel on new technology and on Brexit and the environment, with Cardiff being strongly represented here.
It would be unfair to single out many specific presentations for particular commendation, for all were of a high standard – very thoughtful and lucid, with some really imaginative and effective slides. Nonetheless, in terms of the Cardiff students, credit should go to all those who put in an incredible collective effort. Thus, beginning with the year two students, the Unit would like to thank Sophie Tremlin and Danielle Futcher, who presented papers on ‘De-Growth and the Law’ (Panel One) and ‘Brexit and Environmental Law’ (Panel Four) respectively. These students have a bright future, and hopefully they will carry the benefits of the experience through to their final year.
In terms of final year students, well done Jasmin Simpson, Rachel Johnston, Jack Woods and Alex Painting (pictured above), who produced an excellent presentation of their summative one coursework, exploring legal historical issues relating Carolyn Merchant’s early thesis that the industrial revolution destroyed a desirably organic early modern order (Panel Three). Emily Edwards, Juliette Eden and Natalie Cernuschi (plus Danielle mentioned above) had the audience gripped with their topical analysis of EU and UK waste, water and air pollution law from a Brexit perspective (Panel Four).
Other outstanding presentations by final year Cardiff-based students included Shannon Ryan Creagh’s perceptively critical analysis of the Paris Treaty (Panel Two), which showed real maturity and intellectual promise, whilst Dimitri Bin Rosli brought the event to a conclusion with a highly original and nuanced analysis of national culture and environmental law, combining summative one and summative two coursework. Last word should go to Nacha Thuraichamy, who was the University’s ‘student observer’ at the Marrakech Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC and Paris Treaty in November. Her presentation on her experience was of enormous quality and interest.