Rising 2L Spends Summer Working for Environmental Justice

UC Hastings student Alex Sauerwein contributes his experience at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment to the #summergig series.

Rising 2L Alex Sauerwein strengthened his commitment to advocating for environmental issues this summer as a legal clerk at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. His work was primarily focused on various environmental justice issues in the San Joaquin Valley (the Valley), like reducing air pollution, improving water quality, and increasing access to safe and sustainable transportation.

Alex, originally from San Jose, California, studied Environmental Science with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture at UC Santa Cruz. “I did a lot of research in labs and worked with a sustainable agriculture supply company, which taught me devastating effects some of the farming practices had on the environment and the health of farm workers,” says Alex.

After learning about how the infamous (and now-banned) pesticide methyl bromide endangered farm workers with lifelong disorders, Alex was inspired to go to law school to prevent these issues in the future. “There are many more dangerous pesticides in use that need addressing and I feel that my understanding of environmental science could contribute to the legal field and help to implement policies in favor of environmental justice,” he says.

As a legal clerk at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Alex joined in lobby efforts to create a safe and affordable drinking water fund by opposing legislation that promotes large scale cattle operations near underserved communities in the Valley. He participated in meetings with legislators and other activists, including the iconic Dolores Huerta. Additionally, Alex helped promote a city ordinance in the city of Arvin, which will modernize Arvin’s oil and gas regulations.

Ultimately, Alex thinks that the best part of his summer gig was the opportunity to do something that he can feel proud of. “I came to UC Hastings to work for environmental justice and learn how it is affected by policy. I am learning more and more every day and it is a huge gift that wouldn’t be possible without my summer gig or law school,” he says.

Alex credits his attendance at PIPS day and the encouragement from his UC Hastings law professors for allowing him to participate in this summer opportunity. “Professor Takacs inspired me and my classmates from day one of class to do meaningful environmental work,” he says.

This fall, Alex looks forward to continuing his environmental law education with a full set of environmental law courses, contributing to the environmental law journal and fundraising for the Hastings Environmental Law Association.