How an Environmental Law Degree Can Help You Save the Planet
By Lizzie Weakley
From your neighborhood supermarket to the housing project going up a mile away, to the self-congratulatory e-newsletter your utility company keeps sending you, it seems that everyone’s going green these days. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with being environmentally conscious and responsible. The problem is that individual, sporadic efforts at being “greener”, like occasional recycling or reusable shopping bags, have no real effect on environmental change or loss. So what can one individual do to have a potentially profound affect upon the planet? He or she might well want to consider studying and practicing environmental law.
What Exactly Is Environmental Law?
Owing its roots to the environmental policy changes of the early 1970s, environmental law is a grouping of common and national legal regulations and policies with statutes and policies with the objective of protecting aspects of the environment. If this sounds like a broad definition, those who practice environmental law deal with a wide spectrum of environmental topics. As a result, many of those who study environmental law focus on specializing in certain areas of it, such as mining and agriculture, climate change, or wetlands, among many other options.
Can Environmental Lawyers Truly Save The Planet?
They can certainly help! It is anticipated that due to population growth, expanding businesses, and ongoing mitigation, the need for qualified environmental lawyers will grow throughout the twenty-first century. As this type of legal specialist, an environmental lawyer advises government agencies, and helps to create and draft regulating policies, and enforces and prosecutes violators of environmental law. In addition to working with governments at all levels, more and more environmental lawyers are now working for large corporations and private entities. Their functions include making sure that such employers don’t run afoul of existing environmental law, and to help these businesses and policies create environmentally correct operating standards.
Why an Environmental Law Degree
Students wanting to specialize in environmental law must work towards a degree in general law, known as a juris doctor, or JD. Those wanting to specialize in environmental law often take non-law courses in forestry, natural resources, and science, as well. Many environmental lawyers often have more than one degree, and many institutions now have collaborative intra-departmental programs, to help environmental law students take all needed courses. Some of the country’s best environmental law programs include the laws schools at Duke, Yale, and Columbia University, as well as the law schools at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the University of Pennsylvania, and Vermont Law School. Some smaller and less well-known schools have excellent programs as well, such as Vermont’s School of Law’s environmental policy program.
So while a lawyer specializing in environmental law may not be able to singlehandedly reverse things for beleaguered Earth, by assisting in policy creation, law enforcement, developing new protections and general public education, such lawyers have already and will continue to play an important part in saving the planet.
About the Author: Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.