Lydia’s (not forever) farewell to her love at first sight
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Lydia’s (not forever) farewell to her love at first sight

Lydia skiing at Hatcher Pass

Up until my last year of law school, Alaska was never on my radar. I knew Alaska to be this magical place, far away, and a place I would likely never visit. Yet now I find myself calling this very place home. It was truly “love at first sight”—anyone who has visited Alaska will likely agree. How could you not fall in love with the mountain-saturated skyline, the midnight sun, the wild berry-dotted tundra? The more I fell in love with this magnificent place, the more I understood the urgent need to protect it.

I believe that learning about the threats to the Arctic is enough to radicalize anyone into bold climate action. Over the course of my fellowship at Trustees, I have supported efforts to stop the Willow Project, to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and to stop the Ambler road proposal.

Lydia at Rabbit Lake last fall, photo taken by Gat Bol

By working on these issues, I have learned about the catastrophic harm development projects pose to the Arctic’s threatened ecosystem and communities. I have learned about the fragile interconnection between the migration patterns of the caribou to the livelihoods of the Alaska Native villages subsisting off the land; how climate change and warming seas directly threaten wildlife like polar bears and the communities that call the Arctic home. The ways of life in the Arctic are like a meticulous dance, but industry and corporate greed keep trying to cut in. My understanding of the threats to the Arctic made me all the more appreciative of the work Trustees has been doing for the past 50 years.

Celebrating and never giving up

Lydia at the ARDC Strategy meeting, photo taken by Emily Sullivan of the Northern Center

This work can at times be discouraging and frustrating; however, this fellowship has taught me about the power of working within organizations and coalitions dedicated to a cause. I have been so inspired by the people at Trustees and our clients who have tirelessly worked to defend these sacred places for decades. I’ve learned about the importance of celebrating wins and not taking losses as a final answer. As attorneys, we owe it to our clients and to the planet to not stop fighting.

I am excited to take what I have learned at Trustees with me as I continue with my legal career. I will be joining Earthjustice’s Northwest Regional Office in Seattle, Washington, this month as an associate attorney. This is certainly a bittersweet farewell for me. I am so excited to be returning to the Pacific Northwest and to protect the place where I grew up. However, Alaska will forever hold a special place in my heart.

I will always be grateful to Trustees for the opportunity to work alongside some of the most talented attorneys on some of the most pressing issues facing our environment today as I started my legal career. I feel so privileged to have been able to learn from and hear the stories of those who have stewarded these sacred places since time immemorial.

The past two years have taught me about the importance of this work and how interconnected these issues all are. I am eager to continue to fight for protecting communities and for bold climate action, and I will be cheering Trustees on from (not so) far away.

The team celebrating Lydia swearing in, photo taken by Dawnell Smith