Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How I Got Interested in Environmental Law

This week a neighbor asked me what got me interested in environmental law.  After answering the question, it struck me that the things that initially drew me in have very little to do with my research or the content of my environmental law courses.  Even though these things may not have been enough to sustain my interests, my hunch is that many people in the field and students in my classes could tell different versions of the same stories.  

First, my family spent a lot of time in the mountains and canyons of the Wasatch Front when I was a kid.  Those experiences taught me to care about these places and my memories of them gave me a personal connection to them.  


Second, I had a number of experiences in the same mountains, in red rocks of southern Utah, and in several other places outside of my home state of Utah where I have found energy, peace, or renewal from just being there.  I recently ran across the following line from Thoreau:  "The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the influence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me."  In reading this, I thought back to those experiences and places.  Given, Thoreau's appreciation of nature and opportunities he had for these sorts of experiences, it is not surprising to me that as he neared the end of his life and was asked whether he had made peace with God that he answered,  "I did not know that we had ever quarrelled."

The last explanation for my interest in environmental policy and law grows out of a pretty simplistic reaction to people compromising the air, water, and land, particularly when these impacts are likely to be long-lived or where I am made to feel the impacts are excessive.  In many ways, such a reaction comes from the gut and is an emotion response too--don't expect a cost-benefit analysis or a refined exercise of environmental ethics before I form an initial opinion.  (I grant you, applying insights from my training, further reflection, and additional information often cause me to rethink this initial response.)  Yet, this is where things begin for me.  It is this reaction and the implied notion that we often do not get it right the first time, I suppose, that prompted me to go into environmental law rather than some other profession that deals with the environment.

-- Brigham Daniels

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