When I first applied for San Diego Coastkeeper’s summer legal clinic internship, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I had two years of law school under my belt and a year of working at the local County Attorney’s office in Buffalo, but that cannot compare to the time I’ve spent in San Diego the past few months. Along with four other law students (all of whom were from different parts of the US) I was tasked with a number of projects that would help improve the health of San Diego’s waters.
Notwithstanding the lack of air conditioning in the office, I wouldn’t trade this past summer for anything. While we were often working single-mindedly on tasks that involved staring at our laptops for hours on end, our clinic director also encouraged us to create a personal connection with the water. Each week, we were expected to spend at least an hour doing something water-related, whether it was surfing, swimming, walking along the beach or underwater basket weaving.
At first, I thought this request was unusual, but looking back, I realize just how important it was for my development over the summer. I spent a number of evenings with a friend out in Tourmaline sitting on a longboard, waiting for a good set to come in and enthusiastically rejoicing whenever I caught a wave. And as much fun as surfing is, I recognize now that being around people who work, play and interact with the coast on a daily basis helped fuel a drive in me to do more. I worked to keep the waters clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.
Here in San Diego, I saw that pollution isn’t an abstract problem that only causes damage in the long term. When sewer spills happen or urban runoff gets funneled into the water, people get sick, and Coastkeeper is doing everything it can to stop that from happening. But they need just as much help to do these projects as the coast does keeping clean. On the east coast, I was a well-functioning cog in the wheel of litigation, but out here, I was helping to save peoples’ lives and their livelihoods.
We want to help, but we need the support to keep doing it.