At this point, I have completed two-thirds of my summer internship with ELAW.  I have to say, it took me a couple weeks to adjust to Eugene, but I think I have finally found my niche. I am not ready to think about leaving in another couple of weeks.

Since my first day in the office, I have learned a great deal.  Growing up in coastal California, my exposure to environmental issues was often limited to wetlands, water and air pollution, and rolling blackouts.  It wasn’t until college that my world opened up and I began to understand the vast differences and similarities of environmental issues faced around the world. Working at ELAW has provided me an opportunity to research global environmental concerns I never would have been exposed to in my legal education.

Bern and Harper Johnson

I truly value the knowledge I have gained about environmental law on an international scale. Yet, if I had to pick the one thing that has made the greatest impression on me, it would have to be something that took place inside the very walls in which I work, just across the hall.  A couple of weeks ago, I overheard our Executive Director, Bern Johnson, helping his daughter write about her interest in the environment.  When I was a little girl I wanted to save the tigers.  I didn’t know how, but I was determined to save the tigers and the black panthers.  My focus has shifted since then, but as I listened to Bern’s daughter compose her thoughts and carefully choose her words, the message was clear: she wants to protect and clean the oceans.  Obviously, the work her father does is not confined to his office, and when he goes home in the evening he takes his knowledge and passion home with him.

This, to me, is the best part about working at ELAW.  It isn’t a job – it’s a passion.  The people I work with, whether in person, via Skype, or via email, all understand the importance of the work they do, and they care.  I will probably never meet, or even speak with, most of the partners I drafts memos for, but I understand the value of their work and am grateful for the chance to contribute.

When I arrived at ELAW I knew I wanted to commit my career to environmental law, but that’s fairly non-specific.  It only took a few weeks, and I now have a much better idea of how I plan to do that:  by working to protect human rights and the environment.  Protecting the environment is not just preserving endangered species or ecosystems; it is also protecting and improving the lives of people.  The two often appear to be in conflict, but as I work, I learn that is not the case at all.

The knowledge ELAW has provided me, and the passion it has instilled in me, are two things I will carry with me throughout the rest of my career.

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Rachel Rivers
Legal Intern