Former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs recently said, “When we breathe the air of freedom, we do not wish to choke on hidden fumes. Let us stand together and demand that our right to a healthy environment is protected.” This sentiment is closely shared by Garlicke & Bousfield, a leading, Durban-based law firm, who on the 16th of April this year,presented Pascale Coetzee from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) with its Environmental Law Award for 2014.
“We allocate this award on an annual basis with the simple aim of encouraging young law students to specialise in this field,” says Howard Stephenson, a Director in Garlicke & Bousfield’s Commercial Department.
Pascale was born in Gauteng and grew up on a small holding in Roodeport. When she was 10-years-old, her family moved to Durban where she attended Crawford College in La Lucia from Grade 5 to Matric.
“I spent most of my childhood running barefoot in the bush, building hideouts out of branches, and climbing trees.My family and I went on many camping trips throughout southern Africa. We all share a deep passion for the environment and I was brought up to appreciate and respect the natural and wild world.”
Upon finishing school, Pascale took a gap year to consider her career options, doing clinical trial coordination at her father’s medical practice. She also completed a PADI Dive Masters course.
“During this period I spent a lot of time researching the various study options in Environmental Management and Environmental Law. I wanted to focus on the social sciences aspect of Environmental Management as well as study Environmental Law so that I could have a well-rounded and expert approach to Environmental Management and Compliance,” she says. “Thus I chose to study a BSocSci with Geography and Environmental Management and Legal Studies as my majors and thereafter complete my LLB.I always intended on becoming an attorney,” says Pascale.
“Studying law in general was not only a fantastic benefit to my own knowledge, butwas also necessary for me to achieve my goals.”
HantiPlomp, one of Pascale’s lecturers at UKZN says, “You can see that Pascale is extremely well educated, however she also has the natural ability to apply theory to practice, a skill most students only acquire after gaining some working experience. She has a bright future ahead of her.”
“I didn’t know when I started that I would love studying the law as much as I did,” says Pascale. “But from the very beginning it was my intention to study environmental law so I could make at least some difference in environmental conservation and sustainable development. I am passionate about protecting those who cannot speak for themselves.”
In the short term, Pascale intends to complete her Masters in Environmental Law, to learn to speak French and to surf. In the long term she wants to complete her articles, become an attorney, and work for a top environmental law firm. “I would love to be a part of the top environmental decision making in this country and potentially internationally too.”
To Garlicke &Bousfield she says, “A tremendous thank you! I feel truly honoured. It was not something I was expecting and the surprise of finding out that I would be receiving this award has truly overwhelmed me. I am incredibly appreciative and hope that I can uphold and honour this accolade going forward.”
Pascale is a Golden Key International Honours Society Member and has received Certificates of Merit for both Environmental Management (BSocSci) and Environmental Law (LLB). She is currently completing an internship at an environmental consulting company and studying part time.