Marc Fink is an environmental lawyer. As I prepared for this interview with Marc, I wondered what an environmental lawyer does. Then I read the Duluth News Tribune article (2/2/17) about copper mining research in northeastern Minnesota. Marc is the lawyer who will use federal law to challenge Poly Met and the federal government on copper mining. This is what an environmental lawyer does: defends the right to life of all species.
Marc has a lifelong passion for justice and the value of nature’s gifts. After completing his undergraduate degree in political science at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Marc decided he wanted to use the legal system to protect the earth and its diverse species. He wanted to find the best law school for this goal. He and a friend drove from Florida, to southern California, to Oregon, to Minnesota, to Virginia and back to Florida, examining law schools around the country. On this trip, he witnessed a number of dramatic industrial impacts on the environment. He decided that the Environmental Law program at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, would provide the best training for protecting the living beings threatened by these impacts. That was a critical choice in his career development, and gave him an excellent education in using legal tools to protect the land and its creatures.
Marc has worked as an environmental lawyer for twenty-one years. He currently works from home for the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit organization founded in 1989, based in Arizona. (www.biologicaldiversity.org. Also on Facebook.) Whether protecting wolves and lynx who wander into Arizona from Mexico, or a lone jaguar threatened by the opening of a new mine in the wilderness, Marc uses his legal skills and tools to enforce the federal conditions outlined in the Endangered Species statute.
Marc’s professional focus is on restoring wildlife and protecting species identified as threatened more than on clean air and hazardous waste. He notes that of the 8.7 million species in existence, we lose close to a dozen species every day. Marc has a deep concern with this rate of extinction, which is called the 6th extinction. There have been five periods of mass extinction on earth over the past 600 million years. The sixth extinction—which is happening now—is the only one that is directly related to human actions. Marc litigates issues from the public’s interest in protecting nature’s diversity. Most of his cases are legal challenges to actions taken by the federal government.
With his quiet intensity and his passionate commitment to saving the diversity of life on earth, Marc often speaks to graduating law students, inspiring them with the vision and hope needed to become protectors of nature. “Fish and wildlife are affected by the whims of humans and they need lawyers, too.” Marc takes the right to life very seriously.
Arriving from Boise, Idaho, twelve years ago, Marc and Maggie found Peace Church and were attracted to the open-minded approach to Jesus’ teachings. Maggie shares Marc’s commitment to working for justice. They both advocate for the deaf culture and believe Black Lives Matter. Sophie and Isaac are active in the Peace youth program and share their parent’s commitment to justice.
Marc’s approach to justice is embodied in a quote he admires from Winona LaDuke: “Let us be the ancestors our descendants will thank.” Marc and the species he protects will need our prayers as he responds to challenges presented by the new federal administration. Every species has a voice with Marc Fink.
Interviewed by Steve Coll