From Erin: "I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an environmental lawyer. I grew up in a suburb on the outskirts of the San Francisco Bay Area. The town I lived in was filled with shopping centers and swimming pools, which had slowly replaced the orchards and rolling golden hills that once dominated the landscape.
"While this was a fine place to grow up, by far the highlight of my childhood were the times my family spent camping and exploring in the Sierra each summer. This is where I first discovered “nature,” as in a place that does not require electricity, video games or television to be fun. I will forever be grateful to my family for showing me the great outdoors and teaching me how to experience life and not just the world I saw on television.
"As I got older, I learned that while we Californians are blessed with some of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world, many of those places are under intense pressure and even abuse.
"Water scarcity was a major concern for my family and community, as were forests fires, which—while not a direct threat to my community—have always loomed as a significant issue in California. I will never forget that, when I was 14, Yosemite National Park had to be closed because of fire for the first time in the national park’s 100 year-history of the national park. Was this brought about by poor forest management, or was public concern about fires the inevitable result of increasing urban growth and expansion into wildlands, or both?
"When I was in college in Los Angeles, even though I lived less than an hour from California’s spectacular coast, the air I had to breathe each day was so polluted that on days when air quality was especially poor, people would be warned not to go outside. The challenge for me was that I felt powerless. With such huge environmental problems, how could one person make a difference?
"A series of internships in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. during college, and then a short stint working for a foundation after college, helped me realize that I could and should do something proactive to make my home of California a better place to live. I attended law school in the Pacific Northwest, and have spent the past six years working in the public interest, first for a public interest firm in Washington, D.C., and now as an attorney for Earthjustice.
"For me, being an environmental advocate is about protecting the environment so that we and future generations can enjoy healthy ecosystems, untrammeled wildlands and clean air and water.
"It is hard to say for sure whether or not, in the big picture, I’ve had an impact or made a difference yet. But I firmly believe the old saying, 'If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.' I feel incredibly fortunate and proud to be back in California working with the talented and passionate attorneys and staff of Earthjustice and advocating for solutions to many of the problems I was confronted with growing up in California."
Erin Tobin graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1998, and from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2004. After graduating law school, Erin practiced for three years for Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, a public interest law firm in Washington, D.C., before returning to California in 2007 to join the California regional office of Earthjustice as an associate attorney. Erin is currently a senior associate attorney and works on a range of issues, including species and ecosystem protection, public lands, and pesticides.