Academic Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Jackson
Dr. Andrew Jackson is a lecturer of Law in UCD. He is an environmental and planning lawyer and teaches these subjects at undergraduate level as well as Climate Change Law and Policy at post-graduate level. Dr. Jackson has had an interesting career ranging from beginning as a corporate and commercial lawyer in Slaughter and May in London and Paris to pursuing his passion for environmental issues. He has played an integral role in publishing literature on leading climate and biodiversity issues and has also acted as one of the driving forces behind Climate Case Ireland, a first-of-its-kind, landmark Irish case brought to hold the Irish government accountable for its failures to adequately address the Climate Emergency – the case is currently before the Supreme Court.
Welcome to Academic Spotlight! This segment takes a look at the people in front of our lecture halls and behind UCD’s leading research. Have you ever wondered what your lecturer does outside of teaching you your degree? This segment delves into the personalities of the people behind your lectures and brings to you a complete snapshot of their stories.
Dr. Jackson is an incredible lecturer whose passion for environmental issues is well-known in UCD. I sat down with him and talked about everything from his career to the importance of our generation in moulding a greener future for our planet. Let’s dive in!
From Corporate to Climate
When working for an international corporate and commercial law firm in London and Paris, “I ultimately decided it just wasn’t for me, both the lifestyle and the work,” says Dr. Jackson. “ I was beginning to think, what am I interested in outside of work, what am I passionate about? And I decided I should align my interests with my career.”
Dr. Jackson then progressed in to the government legal service with the UK’s Department for the Environment and greatly enjoyed the work but, when advising civil servants, felt that, “in meetings with government scientists, the scientists sometimes seemed to lump me in with the policy makers, thinking ‘you are just a lawyer, what do you know?’” This inspired Dr. Jackson to complete a masters in Biodiversity and Conservation in Trinity College. He then completed a PhD, pursuing his interests in research, and later worked as an in-house lawyer for a leading environmental NGO before moving to UCD in 2015.
Lecturing in UCD is something Dr. Jackson is enthusiastic about, particularly given the importance of the modules he teaches,
“I love working in a university environment, I find it a really positive environment, working with talented colleagues and students with their lives ahead of them, finding their way in the world.” Dr. Jackson goes on to say that “environmental law and policy is so vital. I see it as critical: if we don’t solve climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, we can forget about all of the other goals we have.” He also feels “really positive about the fact that the environmental law undergraduate class has more than doubled in size in the past year.”
Contemporary Issues in Class
Living in a time where School Strikes for Climate are becoming a regular occurrence, I asked Dr. Jackson what impact he thinks they have on his students.
“For me, contemporary movements like the Greta Thunberg-inspired School Strikes reinforce the sense of urgency, and that helps to create political momentum. I try to bring a sense of that urgency into class and try to emphasise that the climate and biodiversity emergencies are defining issues of our lifetimes and that the next ten years are really crucial. The other thing I try to do is to highlight the unique contribution of law and lawyers.”
Where does change begin?
Dr. Jackson recalled Mary Robinson’s Climate Justice event which he hosted in the law school last year and noted that “as an undergraduate student, she set out her platform regarding the issues she felt were important and she dedicated her career to addressing those issues. To me, it was so inspiring to think that someone at undergraduate stage could see so clearly that these are the things that need to change.”
“I hope people like yourself and your friends are thinking as you go into your careers, ‘what are the issues presently that are going to be the defining issues of our lifetimes?’ so that in twenty years’ time, you’ll look back and say, ‘wasn’t it crazy that this is the way things were then and somebody needed to rock the boat and change things’. I hope that you see a role for yourselves in that and see how you can use the law as an instrument for positive social change.”
He believes that “every action matters” and that “systemic change and individual change both need to be pursued urgently.”
Advice for Students
“My main piece of advice would be to find something that you are passionate about and do that. Because you will be good at it and you will find that if you align what you’re interested in and passionate about with what you do every day then you will love what you do. And fundamentally, I think we should always consider ‘what are the impacts of what I’m doing or thinking of doing on the climate and biodiversity crises? How can I make things better?’”
Mahnoor Choudhry – Reporter