By Mary Katherine Andrews • May 05, 2019•Law School
Through reflection, I know that I tend to take on a protector role. Though not a conscious objective, I assume a position to protect others in order to allow others to express their full potential. This natural disposition illustrates my draw to help others that I will incorporate into my legal career. As the youngest of four, I knew early on the power and need to speak up for myself. From the familial sphere, I transferred this assertive disposition into social settings where I realized the need to speak up for others.
Of the many personal stories in my formative years that highlight this attribute, one in particular exhibits my understanding of the importance of standing up for myself and provides insight into my deeply rooted commitment to speak up against injustice.
A time where I exercised the adage “actions speak louder than words,” left a lasting impact on those who witnessed it and is what my high school AP World History teacher reminded me about because it was the "most effective passive aggression [he] ever saw." I was nine years old and played on a competitive soccer team with his daughter. My success as a goalie led my coach to put me in as goalie for every game, the entire game. But I wanted to play in the field too and not be trapped in “the box.” I spent months asking to play in the field. Each time he promised that I would … next game. Somehow during the next games it was always too close or important to take me out. Finally during our last game of a tournament weekend, I had had enough. The game started as usual with me in the box, but after kick-off, I walked up to and stood on the 18-yard line. When the other team broke past our defense, I didn't move. The other player, though confused, scored. My coach was screaming his head off as I casually retrieved the ball from the net. After one more score, he pulled me and started to chew me out on the sideline. I reminded him that he promised to play me in the field and sat down. My message was clear. He was furious … but eventually put me in the field.
From this foundation, I continued to develop my role as an advocate for others by dedicating myself to community service, particularly focusing this ability on my passion for the environment. The Earth cannot speak for itself. We take unceasing advantage of innumerable benefits the earth provides, ignoring the negative, lasting, cumulative effects. Conversations about environmental issues ebb and flow when tangible harms occur. Even then, we focus on the superficial problem at hand, not the real root of the cause.
I came to law school aspiring to continue the notion of standing up to others in need with a specific aim to practice environmental law because the Earth needs protection. Environmental work necessarily serves the public interest because environmental law inherently aims to achieve a public good.
Having already started to give back to the legal community and participate in pro bono at BU through the spring break trip where I assisted legal housing issues related to lead paint, I hope to continue to aid the disproportionately targeted communities that face environmental and health hazards. The notion of environmental justice stems from irrefutable evidence that traditionally discriminated against groups (low-income, minorities) unequivocally face more environmental hazards than wealthier populations. Thus by focusing on environmental issues, I can bring this broader issue to light and help give a stronger voice to those facing the most harm.
This summer I will be interning at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). MassDEP works to ensure clean air, land and water by overseeing safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes as well as timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills. MassDEP also works to preserve the state's wetlands and coastal resources by issuing environmental regulations and enforcing permits. Through enforcing regulations, permitting activity, and designating just solutions, MassDEP seeks to further the public good by mitigating development, ensuring remediated areas no longer provide a risk to public health, and monitoring clean water.
I will be assisting the general counsel with these various practices, researching and writing proposed regulations and enforcement matters. I will work on regulations that benefit the public at large by aiming to reduce negative effects that certain activities impose on general public health, thus the nature of this work is public service oriented. This position will prepare me for public interest work where I will have more opportunity to speak up for others because by speaking up for the Earth, we are speaking up for everyone.