Legal education involves a level of rigor that can greatly benefit work in complex, developing-country contexts.”
His post-college travels convinced Orestes Anastasia that he could make a difference as an environmental lawyer. "The greatest challenges are in developing countries, and they're getting progressively worse," he says. His choice of Vermont Law School, with its top ranking and dual degree program in environmental law, has given Orestes the career flexibility and impact to fight climate change at home and abroad, and it helped him respond to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Orestes entered the public sector while a student at VLS with an internship in Washington, D.C., and he returned after graduation. "It's a great place-the hub of engagement for environmental and international development," he says, "and the caliber of professionals is outstanding." After nine years of environmental law and climate-focused work supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and others, he headed to Thailand to manage USAID's environmental programs there.
Then disaster struck. Soon after the 2004 tsunami, Orestes was leading the U.S. government's $14 million initiative to help develop a regional warning system-partnering with five Asian countries, five U.S. government agencies, and teams of technical contractors. Among their achievements: deploying deep-ocean buoy systems that could relay undersea earthquake data to satellite networks; setting up disaster warning centers; and training authorities and communities how to respond. After three years of work and testing, Indonesia could issue a life-saving warning within 10 minutes of a triggering event on the ocean floor.
"A slight deviation from environmental law," Orestes jokes, but he believes his core coursework and environmental focus have prepared him to step in and contribute in a big way. "Legal education involves a level of rigor that can greatly benefit work in complex, developing-country contexts," he says. He adds, "We do a lot of writing here, and while I'm often complimented on my skills, I have to credit VLS for providing such solid training in strong, compelling writing."
Now refocused on climate change, Orestes is leading half a dozen new climate-related programs, with more on the horizon. "We're promoting clean energy initiatives in six countries, and are expanding work in environmental law and green buildings, industries, and communities in China," he explains. One such partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council promises particular impact in China, which constructs the equivalent of 50 times the commercial space of Manhattan in new buildings every year.
Orestes looks with optimism to the future: "These programs are starting to make a dent in the overwhelming global challenges ahead, particularly in Asia."