Helen Keller gives us an insight into her work as a professor of Public, European and International Law, how rising court cases related to Climate Law are influencing her research and how the Alps help her to sort ideas.
Who are you and what is your profession?
My name is Helen Keller. I am a professor of Public, European and International Law and a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on climate litigation in national and international judicial bodies.
Which trend will influence your work or research the most?
Court cases related to climate law are quite frequent nowadays around the globe. This influences my work because the more judgments we have, the more data I have for my research. Depending on how the courts judge the issues around global warming, I have more or less to say in my research. We will analyze the legal reasoning and, of course, compare it with that of other courts.
Who would you like to work with some day?
With many young people around the world who are committed to preserving the wellbeing of the planet for future generations.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing, and that’s a good thing. I’m not a night person, I prefer to sleep during the night deeply and then to get up in the morning fresh and full of energy. So I am more of a lark than an owl.
Difficult cases at the Court have sometimes caused me sleepless nights. These horrible facts have often haunted me until I was asleep.
What are you currently reading?
Jason Rudall, Compensation for Environmental Damage under International Law, 2020
What tools do you use to organise your ideas?
When I’m working conceptually, I get on my bike and climb one of the hills around Zurich. There I have a wonderful view of the Alps. With this view, I sketch my ideas on paper with several coloured pens. In other words: conceptually, I never work on the computer.
Is there a takeaway from the pandemic that you would like to share? Has anything changed in your daily routine?
During the first wave of the pandemic, I was still a judge at the ECtHR. When we could only deliberate via email and later via an online tool, I realised how important human contact is in deliberations. Without direct interpersonal contact, there are many more misunderstandings, and the quality of the outcome is often less convincing.
Tell us a fun or unknown fact about you!
I am passionate about music and love playing my accordion with friends and family.
In the future, you would like to…
Sing and dance more!
What is your favourite spot in Berlin?
The Holocaust Memorial: There are very few people left who experienced the Holocaust themselves. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we have to prevent such heinous acts at all costs.
PS: What is the most delicious thing you ate this week?
Wild blueberries from the Alps
If you want to learn more about Helen Keller’s research and her ideas, check out the recording of the event ‘Climate Change in Human Right Courts‘ by ALLEA, which took place at Berlin Science Week on 6 Nov 2021.