What are some of your best childhood memories?
I grew up alongside Fox Creek in suburban Somerset, New Jersey till I was about six years old. One of the clearest and fondest memories from that time is of my parents and I going on the path behind our house that took us to a large forested area, in which we had to cross a big bridge over the creek to get there. Now, as an adult with understanding of units of measurement and scale, I realize that the ‘forested’ area is about three blocks worth of evergreen trees planted to separate the houses in that neighborhood from the busy 4-lane road behind it, and the bridge was slightly larger than your average foot bridge over a small creek. But to a young Akriti on her bicycle (with the pom-poms on either end of the handlebar), it was the first and most vivid feeling of being in awe of the nature around me: a feeling I have continued to carry with me almost every day since then (except for the days I have found a tick on me – I am *not* in awe of nature on those days).
How did you choose Lewis & Clark Law School for your legal education?
I had been working for Sierra Club Environmental Law Program for just under a year when I paused and realized I had found a niche of environmental advocacy that centered justice, achieved the same results as organizing and activism, and was a career that I could sustain throughout my life without burning out: environmental law. Specifically, I was working as a research analyst for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign at the time, and had learned an incredible amount about the legal and regulatory mechanisms of energy and electricity in the US, as well as how powerful litigation is as a tool for environmental advocacy in that short year. In 2018-19, we (attorneys, campaign and community organizers, Sierra Club members and other members of the public) secured the retirement of the Rockport coal-fired power in Indiana, and that is when I decided to build a career in law focused on just and sustainable decarbonization.
Lewis & Clark Law School was one of four schools I shortlisted based on its strong environment and energy law programs, and I finally made the decision to come here because of the incredible opportunities I would have through NEDC, EarthRise, Environmental Law Moot Court, SEED, Environmental Law Review, and other similar public interest-focused avenues.
What did you end up working on over the summer as NEDC’s law clerk?
I spent the first few weeks of the summer working on a couple different projects, one of which was analyzing violations of industrial stormwater permits by many facilities in Oregon. I also studied U.S. EPA’s COVID policy temporarily providing leniency for polluters not complying with state and federal emission standards, and the subsequent implementation of that policy in Oregon. I also did a study of the Ninth Circuit Volkswagen litigation about the use of aftermarket automotive defeat devices to circumvent emission standards, and that project is still ongoing.
Just as the summer was wrapping up, I worked on identifying a few angles for bringing viable environmental enforcement actions related to the use of tear gas. Finally, I became the Co-Chair for NEDC’s DEI committee this summer, and have been working to implement some of the changes you’ll read about in the DEI article on our website!
If you had a legislative superpower that would enable Congress to pass and the president to sign into law one bold new policy, what would it be?
A universal healthcare bill with riders for: a) a wide-reaching comprehensive carbon tax program, the proceeds from which would go towards community health and safety programs, b) the end of qualified immunity and the private prison industrial complex, as well as funds being made available for cities to use in setting up restructured community safety programs, c) a mass forestation program requiring a 40% increase in forest cover across the nation within 3 years, d) forgiving of all student debt and ending the predatory private student loan industry, and e) incorporate Senator Ed Markey’s Brain Train Act and creation of a robust electric vehicle (and infrastructure) tax credit program.
If I could have traveled anywhere in the world this summer I would have chosen:
Santorini or the Amalfi Coast – a combination of uninterrupted sunlight, a foreign language, people of a different culture, a new cuisine, and a moving body of water.
The best book I read this year was:
Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère. Carrère has a fantastic writing style that kept me captivated throughout what is essentially a biography, and even made me chuckle out loud frequently. It is fascinating to read about a person that I could have lived my entire life not knowing about and it wouldn’t have changed a thing. But now that I did read about writer Eduard Limonov, I know so much about his truly wild life, and it provided a much needed respite from my regular law school reading material (where the most wild thing to happen was a woman fainting because a horse was too close to her. See generally Mitchell v. Rochester Ry. Co., 45 N.E. 34 (N.Y. Ct. App. 1896))
Communication with friends and colleagues virtually rather than in-person during the pandemic has been:
A more concerted effort, but more intentional and therefore more meaningful.
I love old Hindi songs because:
It is the music I grew up listening to and I have very fond memories of spontaneously breaking into a duet with my father whenever one of our favorite songs came on the radio.
I draw inspiration from:
People that identify injustices and structural inequities in their environment, propose creative and lasting solutions to fix them, and then put in the work to implement those solutions. This holds true across all facets of my life: professional, personal, academic, spiritual, etc.