When Warigia Bowman observes how climate change is affecting the American West, two things come to mind.
First is the obvious: Drying and warming conditions in Western states and the Great Plains will put a strain on everything from agriculture to drinking water supplies. However, she also sees opportunity: Students hoping to enter the legal profession have a bright future in helping the country navigate its growing water and energy challenges.
Bowman, associate professor at The University of Tulsa’s College of Law, is the director of TU’s Sustainable Energy and Resources Law program. “It’s a great program,” she said. “It’s a great area. You really can’t lose.”
Bowman’s journey to TU spans the globe. She studied law at the University of Texas, clerked for the Texas Supreme Court and worked at the U.S. Department of Justice before earning her doctorate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, focusing on infrastructure and communications technology.
Bowman later taught at the University of Mississippi, American University in Cairo, University of Arkansas and Kabarak University in Kenya. Now in Tulsa, she says she feels like she’s hit her stride in teaching students about the importance of sustainable energy, natural resources and the inequities that exist in this sphere.
Bowman’s publishing credits span topics such as the benefits and challenges in the wind energy sector; examining how air pollution and COVID-19 disproportionately affect minority populations; water resource depletion and management; and the systemic impacts that have harmed Black Americans.
Her work at TU Law, which also hosts the prestigious Energy Law Journal, keeps her busy. Bowman is currently involved in an expansive project regarding water depletion in the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground water supply upon which farmers, ranchers and communities across the Great Plains depend. In the fall, she is spearheading a conference concerning energy use and development on Tribal lands.
These subjects, and many more, all have common threads: They are highly technical in terms of the science involved; they have numerous stakeholders, some of which have been historically neglected; and they involve a cross-section of state, federal and Tribal laws that make finding solutions a complicated affair.
“We need to start asking hard questions about what crops we can grow and where,” Bowman said, noting the stresses that plague some of the country’s most crucial water supplies. “These are technical problems; these are very complicated problems.”
These challenges drive her. “I like areas where there’s a lot of (legal and jurisdictional) overlap. I like technical problems,” she said.
Here, Bowman says, is where the Sustainable Energy and Resources Law program can excel: by training the next generation of legal minds to ultimately solve energy, conservation and environmental problems in a workable and equitable way.
Bowman’s hope is that TU Law students will confront and embrace those complexities to fashion a more sustainable world.
Learn more about energy, resource and environmental TU Law options as well as other areas of concentration at https://law.utulsa.edu/degree-programs/juris-doctor-jd/area-focus/.