Invest In Our Planet: Earth Day 2022
May 2, 2022
In recognition of Earth Day 2022, NYU Washington, DC, NYU Buenos Aires, and the Amazon Aid Foundation hosted a discussion of the Amazon Rainforest and the impact law and policy around minerals and gold mining have on protecting the global environment. Fast approaching a tipping point, beyond which the rainforest will lose the ability to sustain itself, this discussion will focus on action that must be taken to save the rainforest before it is too late.
María Valeria Berros, Doctor of Law and Professor at the National University of Littoral and Adjoint Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research in Santa Fe City, Argentina, Charlie Espinosa, Research and Writing Specialist at the Amazon Aid Foundation, and Benjamin Vauter, Amazon Aid Advisor; International Environmental Protection Specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) Office of Global Affairs and Policy (OGAP) were in this dialogue moderated by Salo Coslovsky, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service at NYU Wagner. NYU Abu Dhabi Junior Erica Wu provided opening remarks to the program.
Narrated by Academy Award–winners Sissy Spacek and Herbie Hancock, this documentary by the Amazon Aid Foundation is the disturbing account of the destruction of Peru’s Amazon rainforest caused by illegally mined gold. Ron Haviv and Donovan Webster, two war journalists, led by Peruvian scientist and activist Enrique Ortiz, bear witness to the apocalyptic destruction of this critical region and its transformation into a wasteland. This documentary reaffirms the right of the rainforest to exist as a repository of priceless biodiversity and not as the toxic remains of humanity’s greed for gold.
*Registered guests gained access to a private screening of the award-winning documentary film, River of Gold, to view online prior to the live webinar Q&A.
María Valeria Berros, Doctor of Law, Professor, National University of Littoral and Adjoint Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, Santa Fe City, Argentina
María Valeria Berros is Doctor of Law and professor at the National University of Littoral and Adjoint Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research in Santa Fe City, Argentina. Former Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU, Munich, Germany. Expert of Harmony with Nature Knowledge United Nation Network. Member of the UICN World Commission on Environmental Law. Invited professor at the Université de Limoges (France), Universidad de la República (Uruguay), Universidad de Buenos Aires y Universidad de Palermo (Argentina). Director of the research project “Meulen. Renewal of legal contributions on the ecological problem” at the National University of Littoral where she also is director of the Virtual Courses “Rights of Nature. Theoretical, practical and interdisciplinary approaches” (in Spanish and English) and “Rights of Nature deepened” at the National University of the Littoral. Co-founder of the Civil Association “Capibara. Naturaleza, Derecho y Sociedad”. Experience in consultancies on various issues of environmental law (Argentinian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Santa Fe Province, among others). During the last ten years she has researched at the Sorbonne University, the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris, the Limoges University, and the Nantes University in different type of research projects: environmental risks & law; sciences, techniques & law; non-regression principle, risk and disasters; law, food & land. Her current research focuses on matters concerning environmental law, rights of nature, environmental ethics and social movements in Latin America and the global south.
Charlie Espinosa, Research and Writing Specialist, Amazon Aid Foundation
Charlie Espinosa is a researcher and writer dedicated to improving environmental and human health. After receiving a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Columbia University, he began working for the non-profit organization Pure Earth, where he first learned about the impacts of gold mining in the Amazon. Inspired to find solutions that benefit people and the rainforest, he helped managed a project in the Peruvian Amazon helping artisanal gold miners to reduce mercury-use and restore degraded mining areas.
Charlie has also worked with the Amazon Aid Foundation since 2018, where he creates digital content about the many marvels and challenges of the Amazon basin. He helps implement the Cleaner Gold Network and is the lead author of Tracking Amazon Gold, a report that summarizes the impacts of gold mining across the entire Amazon basin. In all his work, Charlie is driven by the belief that we live in a beautifully interconnected world and that sustainable change must come from producers, consumers, and everyone in between.
Charlie holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Columbia University. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, hiking and playing soccer. Born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, he is thrilled to be working at the local and global level to protect the diversity of the Amazon.
Salo Coslovsky, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service, NYU Wagner
Salo Coslovsky's research analyzes how governments in developing countries build legal authority and use it to influence routine business practices. He is particularly interested in the enforcement of labor, environmental, food safety, and similar regulations that protect vulnerable groups from exploitation and abuse. This is a topic of much contemporary concern as it addresses the twin challenge of how markets can be more vibrant and more humane. This topic is also forward looking, as it examines how governments can promote economic development even when they are restricted by international treaties, relatively free trade, and the need to attract transnational capital flows.
Benjamin Vauter, International Environmental Protection Specialist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Office of Global Affairs and Policy (OGAP) within the Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA)
Benjamin Vauter is an International Environmental Protection Specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) Office of Global Affairs and Policy (OGAP) within the Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA) where he focuses on international mercury issues, supporting multilateral implementation efforts under the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Mr. Vauter is the EPA’s lead for the Agency's work to reduce mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). Prior to joining the EPA in 2012, Mr. Vauter served with the U.S. Peace Corps in Guatemala where he worked with indigenous Mayan communities to address local environmental issues ranging from habitat conservation to solid waste management. Mr. Vauter received his bachelor’s degree in finance & International Business from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently completing a Master of Science degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Johns Hopkins University.
Erica Wu, Junior, NYU Abu Dhabi
Currently studying at NYU Buenos Aires, Erica Wu is a junior from the Abu Dhabi campus double majoring in Interactive Media and Social Research and Public Policy. She has implemented her passion for sustainability into action as she was previously part of the NYUAD StuGov Sustainability Committee, Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition, and NYUAD’s Geopolitics and Ecology of Himalayan Waters research initiative. She is currently interning at Buenos Aires Times, an English weekly newspaper, where she takes the opportunity to learn more about and amplify the voices of minorities and sustainability advocates in Argentina.