ELP Summer 2020 Fellow Keona Blanks Focused on Institutionalizing Youth Engagement

Stanford University student Keona Blanks interned with the Environmental Law Program (“ELP”) over the summer.  Her dedication to institutionalizing youth engagement for ELP stemmed from Keona’s recognition of the need to take real action addressing environmental issues for future generations.  She was excited to discover others felt the same.  “It’s so great to see people wanting to take action on this issue.  Adding vigor and energy to more institutions by involving lots of youth counsels on non-profits will bode well for the future of this movement,” Keona explained.

Part of Keona’s work included developing a mock trial problem for use by high school students.  She centered the mock trial on environmental issues surrounding a Marine Life Conservation District that potentially conflicted with Native Hawaiian practices, particularly gathering rights protected by Article XII, Section 7 of the Hawai‘i Constitution.  To lay the foundation for the case, Keona interviewed Judge Jeffrey Crabtree, Circuit Court Judge for the Civil/Environmental Court of the Oahu First Circuit Court in Hawai‘i, as well as a Richardson student whose thesis concerned the Kahuku wind turbines.  Students participating in the mock trial will be able to work through the problem defending both sides of the case.

Keona joined forces with Kawika Pegram and Dyson Chee of the Hawai‘i Youth Climate Coalition to collaborate on a Youth Climate Justice Colloquium that took place via Zoom on September 4, 2020.  This free, interactive virtual youth-organized event was open to the public and people of all ages, with a target age range between 14 to 24 years old to meet their goal of increasing youth involvement in climate and environmental justice.  Three main sponsors spoke about current environmental issues in Hawai‘i, providing a local look on environmental justice.  The event was a great success, thanks to co-sponsors who helped to moderate and offered to help spread the word about the event on their networks and channels.  “I really wanted to make it more actionable and involve more youth to take action, which is why I put together this resource guide, the Guide to Involvement in Local Environmental Coalitions,” said Keona.  The guide, featuring Blue Planet, Sierra Club Oahu, and Kupu, provides youth with opportunities and contact information to get involved.

ELP sincerely thanks Keona for all her hard work, perseverance, creativity, dedication, and adaptability given the extra challenges resulting from COVID-19.  She is currently living in Osaka, Japan, while taking a break from her studies at Stanford.  However, she remains busy interning with the Institute for Climate and Peace in Hawai‘i and is also a Research Assistant at the Stanford King Center on Global Development.  ELP wishes Keona all the best in the future!

ELP Guide to Involvement in Local Environmental Coalitions

HCC 1/11/2021

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