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Building Power in the Environmental Movement

October 30, 2021

Green 2.0 Team

Building Power in the Environmental Movement

By State Energy and Environmental Impact Center

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center is an independent non-partisan academic center that supports state attorneys general in their environmental work. In this guest blog post, the Center highlights the perspectives of attorneys of color from the Building Power in the Environmental Movement series, and looks ahead to the next event in the series, which will focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and anti-racism in the environmental public sector.

The field of environmental law has been slower to diversify than the larger environmental movement. While a career in environmental law can provide a chance to practice law in a transformative way that promotes equity and justice, the sector needs more diversity to represent key environmental issues. We teamed up with Green 2.0 and the NYC Bar to address these issues in a series of award-winning panels last year, along with the Institute for Policy Integrity, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, and the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

The series covered NGO and law firm practices to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Panelists also discussed working to implement the equity provisions of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

On Monday, Nov. 1, our “Building Power” series continues with “Building Power in the Public Sector: DEI and Anti-Racism at Environmental Jobs in Government,” where we will hear from professionals working on DEI and anti-racism from within government agencies that focus on environmental law. Register here.

During one of the spring panels, several BIPOC attorneys shared the challenges they faced, the advice they received along the way, and the recommendations they have for new attorneys interested in exploring a career in environmental law. That advice continues to resonate.

Watch the whole panel here.

“If you’re a person, you should care about these issues. If you’re a person of color, you should care about them a lot because these issues are disproportionately affecting our communities. … And if you want excellence in your organization, you need to have diversity, because that’s the way you get excellence.”

Sam Sankar 
Senior Vice President of Programs, Earthjustice
Marisa Blackshire 
Senior Director, Environmental Compliance and EH&S, Bloom Energy

“This is a practice area where you have the ability to touch and impact people’s lives. … It’s really really important that we have all sorts of diverse people working on all sides of these issues.”

“There’s almost 80% overlap between the work that I do now — keeping people safe from toxins, keeping water safe, keeping food safe — and working on climate goals. … There’s a huge overlap between racism and environmental justice.”

Courtney Bowie
Managing Attorney, Northeast Office, Earthjustice
Jonathan Nwagbaraocha
Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability Counsel & Compliance, Leader, Xerox Corporation

“For me it’s that concept of ‘are they welcoming?’ and ‘are they intentional about your personal and professional development?’ — Google, ask about it, find out, because I think that’s critical.”

“Never underestimate the value of being helpful to other people. … I think that’s even more significant for attorneys of color because it is rarer for us to find people who look like us doing what we do. … Anything we can do to help improve that…can only be a benefit to the larger field.”

Roy D. Prather III
Principal, Beveridge & Diamond PC

The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law is an independent non-partisan academic center dedicated to the study and support of state attorneys general in their work defending and promoting clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies.

To learn more about The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, visit and follow them on Twitter @StateImpactCntr.