Oregon State Bar Bulletin — FEBRUARY/MARCH 2008
Parting Thoughts
Shifting to a Sustainable Future
By Dick Roy

The U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its Synthesis Report issued Nov. 17, 2007, removed any reasonable doubt that our American lifestyle is causing climate change. Intellectually, most of us agree that all businesses and citizens must pitch in. But the structural side of a lawyer’s life seems to make that impossible.

Not so. In fact, two tools are readily available to all lawyers who wish to take immediate steps down the path of sustainability: "intention shifting" and "passion shifting."

As a starting point, we simply acknowledge that our time is fully scheduled, priorities are firmly in place, and the intention we bring to each day is programmed. Under these circumstances, the easiest place to begin is intention shifting because it does not require rearranging time or priorities.

It starts with a very simple commitment: "As I go through my normal routine of the day, I will choose options that reduce the use of resources and energy."

I arise in the morning and get ready to shower. I catch myself and ask, "Is this a habit, do I need a shower, or am I simply seeking a little corporal pleasure as I greet the day?" Upon reflection, I decide to switch my routine to every other day.

I meet a client at the coffee shop where the default practice is to serve coffee in double paper cups, even for customers who remain on premises. When I order coffee, I simply say, "In a ceramic cup, I would like a large cup of brewed coffee." (In fact, the coffee experience is enriched by a ceramic cup.)

Time for lunch. Stopping at a nearby restaurant, I ask the waiter, "Do you serve lunch on permanent ware, without disposable plates, cups and utensils?" He says, "Can’t be done. We have no dishwasher." I reply, "Then, I am sorry. I cannot eat here. When you eliminate disposables, I will be back." I head down the block to an alternate location.

Leaving the office for the day, my computer and printer are on. I catch myself on the run to turn them off. Better yet, to avoid all-night energy leakage I switch them off at the power strip.

After an evening at home, as I retire I notice my heavy duty, outside security lights burning. I ask, "Is that a habit, or are lights needed for my safety?" I switch them off and decide to use them only when special circumstances call for increased security.

The second practice, which does involve changing basic behavior is passion shifting. It can be particularly rewarding if used in combination with capitulation.

A good thermometer for passion is the intensity of one’s enthusiasm in pursuing an interest. What activity, or anticipation of it, brings excitement into my life? For example, I may love to golf and anticipate playing on at least one course in each of the 50 states. Or I may love to rise early, sit on the porch, and listen to the morning sequence of birds greeting the day, beginning with those noisy robins.

The nice thing about passion is that we have total control over it. We can easily redirect it away from one activity toward another.

When I got married, I dreamed with anticipation of a vacation one day in Hawaii with Jeanne. It soon became clear that Jeanne had no interest in flying to Hawaii, but a very great interest in exploring our bioregion. Capitulation was in order, so I shifted my passion to our bioregion. My yearn to travel afar is long gone.

With control over my passion, I can assess it through the lens of resources and energy, and shift it to activities that consume less.

For example, assume Jeanne and I are considering a flight to the east coast to visit the Capitol. To check out our carbon loading, I visit the Bonneville Environmental Foundation at www.greentagsusa.org. Running the calculations, I discover that a round trip for two will introduce 12,618 pounds of "carbon dioxide equivalents" (CO2e) into the atmosphere. (CO2e converts the very complex warming impact of air travel into equivalent pounds of CO2.)

Comparing the jet liner to my 1993 Honda Civic VX (46 mpg), I find that we could distance-travel 29,600 miles in the car before generating 12,600 pounds of carbon dioxide. I shift my passion from Washington D.C., to a bike vacation in the Willamette Valley, a rather remarkable biking venue.

On the food front, let’s assume I am a meat-and-potatoes sort of guy. I then visit the Vegan Outreach website, www.veganoutreach.org. I find that meat protein requires the following compared to vegetable protein: 6 to 17 times more land, 26 times more water, and 2.5 to 50 times as much energy. I shift my passion from beef to vegetarian fare — tofu, beans, nuts and whole grains — and learn to enjoy the variety of ethnic dishes.

With intention shifting and passion shifting, we all have two tools that can be employed tomorrow to take the next step along the path to more sustainable living.

Dick Roy is co-director of the Center for Earth Leadership. He and his wife Jeanne are founders of the center, the Oregon Natural Step Network and the Northwest Earth Institute. An Oregon lawyer, from 1970 to 1993 Roy practiced corporate law at Stoel Rives

© 2008 Dick Roy

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