“The best way to learn something is to teach it.”
That popular adage has defined Professor Richard Finkmoore’s career—by his admission.
“I became a teacher because I enjoyed being a student,” says Finkmoore. “I just liked learning.”
After more than 30 years, Finkmoore who teaches U.S. environmental law and international environmental law is retiring from California Western.
Even as a law student, Finkmoore was already teaching. “I began teaching while I was in law school,” he reveals. “At that time, Stanford had a program that allowed grad students to propose a for-credit course on political and social issues. Another member of the Environmental Law Society and I were approved to teach an undergraduate course on California environmental issues, which we taught twice.”
After law school, Finkmoore taught Legal Skills at UC Berkley Law, then took a 10-year detour to practice law in Washington State before landing at California Western in 1988.
Finkmoore’s passion was environmental law and even while in practice he still found time to continue teaching. “I taught environmental law at the undergraduate level as an adjunct professor,” he says.
Since joining the California Western faculty, Finkmoore has served as faculty adviser to the Environmental Law Society and performed pro bono work for the Defenders of Wildlife. He taught for eight years as a visiting professor in the Muir College Environmental Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego, and has taught international environmental law in four law school foreign study programs and property law at the National Judicial College.
“My interest in environmental law was sparked by hiking and backpacking, mostly in the Sierras—just simply being in nature,” says Finkmoore who says that when he was a law student in the early 1970s it was a time of political turmoil and social change when new issues, such as women’s and Native American rights emerged.
One of those changes was the emergence of modern environmental law. “The beginning of the modern environmental movement is often dated to the first Earth Day in 1970,” says Finkmoore. “Many of my classmates at Stanford chose law school because it offered a way to bring about social and political change, as did I. And as I learned more about the environment, I realized how fundamentally important environmental law could be.”
Finkmoore’s scholarship includes a well-received textbook, Environmental Law and the Values of Nature, which has been widely recognized as an important source on the history and evolution of environmental law.
Professor Thomas D. Barton, Co-Director of the Center for Creative Problem Solving at California Western summed up why Finkmoore has been such a respected member of the CWSL faculty for over 30 years. “What have always been Richard’s outstanding qualities are his unswerving integrity, strength of character, and sound judgment,” said Barton. “It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have him as a colleague.”
Today, Finkmoore remains as passionate about the environment as ever and hopes to continue educating people about the consequences of climate change. We have already “baked in” so much climate disruption that we will, for many generations, live through “The Long Emergency” as author James Howard Kunstler describes the future of humanity.
As well as addressing climate change, Finkmoore is looking forward to his retirement as a time for some reflection, reading, and journaling, together with some hiking and camping in national parks in the West.
“I have also been persuaded that being of service to others is an essential part of a fulfilling retirement,” says Finkmoore with a smile. “Although I don’t know yet what form this will take for me, but it will be important.”