Such moments in life are quite rare and more often than not can count them. This is because they do not happen every day and when they do, they are quite precious and life changing. The following encounter is one such moment in my life.
Recently i had the opportunity to attend a worldwide conference for public interest environment litigation lawyers from all over the world. As i boarded the plane i was both anxious and excited of what lay ahead of me on the other side. Being a young lawyer, i have always felt the law world is limitless for me. I am still exploring on where best suited my passion for law will settle. And so the journey to a foreign land in pursuit of legal knowledge began on that Monday night.
In life i have learned to keep my expectations low to a reasonable minimum. On this particular encounter however, my walls of low expectations started to crumble immediately on arrival for our fellowship. Our hosts, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), were both warm and professional at the same time. I had never seen professionalism and warmth be mixed at once by an organization and i jotted down my first lesson.
The staff comprised of both lawyers and scientists. I was introduced to a new form of union between law and science. I had never thought this would be possible. The two disciplines are far too dissimilar. How wrong i was. Science is actually a tool one can use to win law suits that have scientific elements in them. As i received this information i became as excited as a young child does when they receive a new toy.
The days lessons were followed by one on one session with the ELAW staff to cater to our personal organization needs. I could not imagine such a big worldwide organization had even a single minute to spare while here they were, attending to each of us personally. The much awaited ELAW Annual Conference finally arrived and i got to meet all the world lawyers who i had only interacted with electronically.
Lawyers in the world are known to be selfish arrogant and untrustworthy. And yet here i was interacting with a team of vibrant lawyers whose drive and passion was not for the money but love for the environment we live in and the local communities that are too marginalized to be heard. Here were lawyers fighting for justice in the name of public interest. There is nothing glamorous about this law line and yet it has all the desirable elements of the legal profession. These lawyers live not to be seen but live to see justice done and done properly.
I was mesmerized at how each country shared their lessons and successes so that other countries could either learn from them or adopt a strategy that worked in their countries. The discussions were diverse in opinion and one cannot help but grow in this wealth of knowledge.
I realized something through it all. It is possible to achieve the result of protecting environment alone. This however will not be the same as doing so,as a group for i saw renewed energy and zeal among the ELAW partners as they interacted with one another.I saw a fire re-ignited and heart persuaded to take yet another step in this fight to save our planet. I experienced a support system that reached the far corners of the world. I saw different generations come together and share on how best we would protect our environment. I saw race and language not be a barrier for we all were one people and spoke the same language. I realized that this is what kept this army of lawyers going, for in the fight alone,one is bound to give up.
The ELAW Fellowship program, The ELAW Annual conference and Public interest Environmental Law conference, made one thing clear, environmental issues around the world are best solved together and not apart. The fight against the vices to the environment by lawyers is not adversarial in nature as against each other but concerted in nature as we advocate for the environment. Public interest environmental litigation involves each individual lawyer playing their part in their various countries and reaching out to the rest of partners in world when faced with a problem or just mere consultation for best way forward.
This endeavor does not only involve lawyers but also the team of staff in each organization that see the organizations’ vision and objectives achieved in their own individual capacities. It is off essence to state that the success of environmental protection and achievement of sustainable development involves a multiplicity of players whose objective is common to all but roles differentiated.
The inspiration that flowed from this encounter was like nothing i had experienced before. In that moment, my life was totally transformed and i knew exactly what i wanted to do when i left this foreign great land. In that moment i knew my life would never be the same again and one of my life’s decisions had been settled finally and this was to join the army of public interest environmental lawyers around the world.