Legal fellow Lauren Sherman joined Trustees in September. Here, she talks about how her childhood interest in being an environmentalist took a turn to the law.
As a child surrounded by estuaries in Florida, I loved spending an afternoon watching a great blue heron stalk fish or manatees feeding in shallow beds of seagrass. It struck me as magical to see how each organism, no matter how small, contributed to the entire system.
In 6th grade, I was asked to prepare a presentation on someone whose work inspired me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn’t relate to actors, politicians, and CEOs. In my continued search for a role model, I discovered Rachel Carson’s writing. It was tough to imagine anything more inspirational than her bravery in standing up for ecological principles in the face of powerful efforts to discredit her work. I knew that, somehow, I wanted to be like her when I grew up: an environmentalist. I brought that passion for environmental issues with me to Pomona College, leading me to major in environmental analysis.
An unexpected diversion
When I applied to the Peace Corps as an idealistic 22-year-old, I had absolutely no intention of going to law school. However, after moving to the Andean town of Huari, Peru, to support community-based environmental programs, I quickly realized that the largest threat to the future of the predominantly agrarian region came from legal and policy failures to address climate change. Although our community could plant native tree species to protect local watersheds from erosion, we could not prevent the rapid melting of the tropical glaciers that were so crucial to the entire region’s water supply.
Visiting Glacier Pastoruri at the beginning and end of my service, and seeing that it had noticeably retreated in just two years, was a visual reminder that there was no time to waste. At the end of my service, I was convinced that law school should be my next step.
Alaska or bust, no regrets!
After spending three years at NYU Law, I jumped at the opportunity to serve as a law clerk in Alaska. As soon as I arrived in Anchorage, the incredible mountain landscape immediately brought me back to my time in Huari. I have never once regretted the decision to move to Alaska—even on the darkest, coldest winter days.
I’m thrilled to be using my legal education to fight exploitative decisions based on short-term considerations, over the long-term health of Alaskan communities, economies, and ecosystems. I feel incredibly fortunate to work for Trustees on preserving the rich cultural and ecological diversity of Alaska, such as the unique and irreplaceable Bristol Bay salmon culture.