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Earth Awareness and Perspective

Lauren G. Harpke

Lauren Harpke is an Energy and Environmental Associate in the Milwaukee Office.

Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated across the country on April 22nd with tree plantings, speeches and environmentally-conscious service projects. Unable to appropriately acknowledge Mother Earth in a single day, some municipalities and organizations extend Earth Day to a full week or month dedicated to Earth Awareness. But even then, is a month enough time to slow down and recognize the power of Mother Nature?

As an environmental attorney, I like to think that I practice “earth awareness” every day. My nine to five job, so to speak, is to guide clients through the environmental regulatory schemes applicable to their operations and to assist with the environmental due diligence process in connection with acquisitions and new developments. In other words, I spend my working hours considering the impacts at the intersection of environment and business.

Even when not at work in my suit and heels, I continue to practice “earth awareness” each day. In the spirit of honesty, however, I must confess that I’m usually not actually wearing a suit and heels at work – I’m not much of a suit person, nor am I particularly fond of heels. But, that personal confession is beside the point, which is that my job as a corporate environmental attorney provides additional context and perspective to my daily life.

When not at work, I can often be found hiking in Lapham Peak State Park or kayaking in the Bay of Green Bay. In addition to enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air, the value of which cannot be monetized, I notice the additional value that our environment brings to our economy, businesses and clients and vice versa. I know that from the trees come paper and construction materials, from the water comes irrigation and cooling sources, and from the air comes wind-power. When shopping at my usual grocery store, I see the site layout particularly designed to incorporate green areas and protect nearby environmental corridors. And when sleeping in my tent in a thunderstorm, I can marvel at (and appreciate!) the technology keeping me dry.

In fact, earth awareness is how I found my career calling in the first place. Many, many years ago I spent time on a boat in the Bahamas watching whales and dolphins all day, every day. While it sounds very much like a vacation, I was actually a volunteer on a research expedition to gather data on the indigenous and migratory populations to assist in developing policies for the commercial fishing and boating industries. On this project, I observed the intense relationship between traditions, science, policy and environmentalism; I quickly learned that the most effective and useful environmental policy is that which incorporates all of those components. And now, many years later, I still find myself both playing and working with the essential mindset of Earth Awareness every day.

How are you “earth-aware”? What unique perspective does your life provide to your sense of environmentalism?