For me, Washington, D.C. -- where I managed an Earthjustice office -- isn't just the seat of our national government. It's also my hometown, the place where I was born and have lived nearly all my life. Its beautiful parks, and the surprisingly wild forests they contain, imbued me with a love of nature and awakened my environmental consciousness. At the same time, the spirited public policy debates that are the daily bread of this town have always interested me greatly. During my childhood and teen years, I lived through history as Washington hosted a series of major demonstrations drawing hundreds of thousands from around the country -- and was privileged to be able to attend the very first Earth Day rally here in 1970. During those years, my father's pharmacy four blocks from the White House welcomed many interesting Washington personalities, including most memorably Alice Roosevelt Longworth, a spry, no-nonsense octogenarian and daughter of the landmark conservationist president Theodore Roosevelt.
These woods are in Rock Creek Park, not too far from my apartment in northwestern DC. After receiving my law degree from New York University nearly a quarter-century ago, I returned to Washington and searched for a opportunity in environmental advocacy. Following a summer spent volunteering with the campaign to protect Alaska's wilderness, I arrived at Earthjustice (then Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), and began an association that has lasted twenty-two years so far. My work here has spanned five presidential administrations and a wide variety of important issues -- most prominently, protecting people and the environment from pollution of our air and water.
In the last decade, I've been especially pleased to see our work expand to address our regional environment here in the Washington metropolitan area. As important as our national cases are, our local cases have an immediacy that is very gratifying. I can actually go walk in parkland that, but for our work and that of our clients, would have been marred by various ill-advised projects such as highways and theme parks. At the same time, I can look into the still-muddy waters of the Anacostia -- Washington's forgotten "other" river -- and see the challenges ahead.
Spending two decades working here in Washington, and seeing how government really operates, has been a real eye-opener. Those who pollute our environment have sent a swarm of hired advocates to this town -- they blanket Capitol Hill in their quest for legislative favors, sue at the drop of a hat to overturn government policies they don't like, and endlessly lobby agencies to keep them from doing the right thing. Regrettably, agencies all too often cave in to this pressure and make decisions that they know full well are not only environmentally damaging, but also blatantly illegal. Fortunately, these challenging circumstances have not prevented the nation from making considerable progress on environmental issues since the first key laws were passed three decades ago. But such progress would never have happened if there hadn't been a few stubborn activists pushing back against the excesses of industry and government. I'm proud to be one of those -- and grateful to the thousands of generous supporters who make our work possible.
Howard Fox is Counsel for Earthjustice's Washington, D.C. office. A native of the District of Columbia, Mr. Fox received his B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University in 1976, and his law degree in 1979 from New York University, where he was awarded the Order of the Coif. Since 1980, Mr. Fox has practiced environmental litigation with Earthjustice. His docket has included numerous cases under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other laws.