Let the fields rest now; commit their names to memory.
Instead, bring on the Longhorns, then the deer,
both Fallow and Red, and let them roam.
Import Tamworths and watch these boar by proxy
imitate the plough. Marvel as they rootle
for earthworms and grubs, snout out docks
and thistles, turn over clods and expose soil
to air before it’s shifted by limpet-mine explosions
of cattle shit. Let bees colonise and anthill complexes
establish their miniature Towers of Babel.
Let green woodpeckers alight and feast. Study
the migration of beetles from edge to centre.
Allow the sallow to emerge and by the summer
purple emperors will be spotted over ditched water.
May all this rootling encourage chickweed, fumitory
and knotgrass to take over. Scarlet pimpernel
and red fescue too — like gatherings from Ophelia’s reason
in madness. Let turtle doves breed and a purring male
appear on cue, from behind white gloves, the final act
in the magician’s set.
Come Christmas Eve repair
to the treehouse set deep in a forest of oak and elm
and out of darkness listen to the smatterings of sleet then snow on twig and leaf. Feel the awe of a child again.
The Future of the Civil Justice System Post-Covid 19 – Eliza Bond, LSA Intern
The Law Society has recently issued a response to the Civil Justice Council’s rapid consultation on the impact of COVID-19 measures on the Civil Justice System (1). Their take-home message is that this “new normal is not accepted as a permanent way of accessing and upholding justice in the future” and it is “crucial that courts are able to re-open once it is safe to do so” (2). They have particular concerns surrounding the high barriers to entry (3), the impact on vulnerable parties and witnesses (4), and the inability of litigants in person to participate fully in remote hearings (5).
From an environmental and sustainability perspective, remote hearings in private disputes seem to represent an inherently positive step towards reducing the “legal carbon footprint”. At face value, it prevents swathes of lawyers from travelling, often internationally, to court. Less plane trips, train rides and car journeys are something that we at LSA are constantly pushing for. However, in order to be truly sustainable, it must have the capacity to deliver effective and open justice. It is unlikely that a permanent Zoom-court can fulfil this function.
As the Law Society notes, certain cases are more suited to remote hearings than others, the implication being that they could continue after the pandemic. Procedural, direction and case management hearings are cited as examples of this (6). It is likely that with a bit of adjustment, and technological support for those who need it, this could be a sensible way to reduce unnecessary travel and ensure that barristers, solicitors and laymen alike, are using their time wisely, However, this forms a relatively small part of the civil justice system, a “one-size-fits-all” approach would be inappropriate.
The problems that the Law Society outlined with virtual hearings are particularly acute in the family justice system. Indeed, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the President of the Family High Court has recently welcomed the Nuffield Report (7) which outlines the “significant concerns” and the “worrying descriptions of the way some cases have been conducted to date” (8). Not only this, but the report outlines the negative impact on practitioner’s health and well-being. The impact of this should not be underestimated: a demotivated, isolated workforce is not a sustainable situation.
Problems are not just unique to the family justice system. Although Lord Burnett of Maldon suggested that there would be “no going back to the pre-corona days”, suggesting that practitioners and judges would demand greater use of remote hearings (9), his enthusiasm does not seem to be wholly shared by those on the ground (10).
Only time will tell whether a technological revolution in the courts will be forthcoming. In order to be truly sustainable, however, it must work for everyone, users and practitioners alike.
Eliza Bond, LSA Intern
(1) The Law Society’s response to the Civil Justice Council’s rapid consultation on the impact of COVID-19 measures on the civil justice system May 2020
(2) Ibid at page 2.
(3) Ibid at page 5-6.
(4) Ibid at page 4.
(5) Ibid at page 8.
(6) Ibid at page 2.
(7) Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation
(8) Ibid at page 1.
Living in Lockdown – a student’s eye view
As we approach day 60 in lockdown, law students across the country are experiencing a very different summer term to that imagined at the start of the year. Graduations have either been postponed indefinitely or are to be streamed via Zoom – an anti-climactic end deprived fully of all the usual pomp and celebration rightly owed to this landmark achievement. A pronounced mixture of loss and frustration resonates with students and staff alike at the prospect of continued disruption into September. For me, the strangeness of the situation is summarised well by the fact that my would-be exam hall within the ExCel centre is currently kitted out with ventilators and empty beds, functioning as ‘NHS Nightingale’.
And yet the natural world beyond our screens provides reason to remain positive. Now living back at home in north Northumberland, I’m lucky enough to be within walking distance of my nearest beach, which is now mostly undisturbed save for a handful of locals. Coming home, the difference in air quality alone of my recent halls of residence (just off Euston Road, infamously known as one of the city’s most polluted streets) and Northumberland was stark – but happily now lessened by the sudden drop in London air pollution since lockdown!
Similarly, today’s news that global carbon emissions have dropped by 13.6% is welcome but to be taken with a pinch of salt, as Corinne Le Quéré of Natural Climate Change warns: ‘Just behavioural change is not enough, […] we need structural changes [to the economy and industry]. But if we take this opportunity to put structural changes in place, we have now seen what it is possible to achieve.’ Quéré’s caution is no doubt part of a wider, necessary conversation concerning the future of societal behaviours centred around an international green recovery effort.
To this end, a joint statement made on the 18th May by 150+ big corporate names – among them Coca-cola and Vodafone – called for the economic recovery to be aligned with a net zero agenda and to be based on science-based climate goals. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said of the statement: ‘many companies are showing us that it is indeed possible and profitable, to adopt sustainable, emission-reducing plans even during difficult times like this’, a narrative which could well be replicated soon in the legal sector.
First Year Law Student UCL
Intern at Achill Management
Good news on the wind!
Whilst we all get used to a new normal in terms of how we are having to live our lives in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid 19), at least for the next few weeks or months, it is important to remain positive and recognise that we will get through this challenging and, for many, distressing period. All our hearts go out, I am sure, to those who are suffering and have lost loved ones as a result and I wish good health to all reading this short piece.
At a time when it feels we are being buffeted by so much gloomy news about the spread of Covid 19 and its impacts, it is good to hear some good news blown in on the wind – quite literally. According to the latest Energy Trends report (March 2020) published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEiS), the amount of renewable electricity generated in the UK in 2019 reached a record high – 8.5% more than in 2018 at 119.3 TWh, largely due to increased capacity. Renewables accounted for 36.9% of the UK’s total electricity generation – an increase of 3.8% on 2018 and a record high. Wind power accounted for an unprecedented 20% of this.
This switch away from fossil fuel electricity generation towards renewables has had an impact on the UK’s total CO2 emissions – provisional estimates show that these fell between 2018 and 2019 by 3.9%. This means that the UK has almost halved its CO2 emissions compared with 1990 levels – an encouraging result.
In response to this good news Melanie Onn, the Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, a membership organisation whose membership is for organisations involved in wind and marine renewables, said:
“Today’s record-breaking figures show just how radically the UK’s energy system is changing, with low-cost renewables at the vanguard. This will continue as we build a modern energy system, moving away from fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions as fast as possible. As well as wind, we’ll use innovative new technologies like renewable hydrogen and marine power, and we’ll scale up battery storage.”
So, good news and exciting stuff! But, just as science coupled with personal decisions and behaviours changes will help us crack the Covid 19 challenge, so it will need both these to help decarbonise our energy supplies and achieve the UK Government’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As many of us spend more time at home perhaps we might consider switching our domestic energy supplier to one who guarantees a genuinely 100% renewable source? Or better still, encouraging our businesses to make that switch – for example by joining the LSA’s Legal Renewables Initiative and taking advantage of the discounted tariff being offered to LSA members by Good Energy (with associated domestic discounts for those signed up to the LRI).
So, mingled in with the current ill wind of Covid 19 there is also some really good news being blown in on the wind which gives us all hope for the future!
Here’s hoping that all readers stay safe and healthy in these challenging times.
Do we know the price of everything and the value of nothing?
Oscar Wilde’s quip, spoken by Lord Darlington in Lady Windermere’s Fan, that a cynic was “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” is often quoted. In my less optimistic moods (which I hope are few and far between!) I wonder if some of us may be in danger of slipping into a somewhat cynical view when it comes to what we buy and consume and its impact on the natural environment. One which perhaps puts short term economic gain above understanding the longer-term value of our natural habitats and species? A view, perhaps, which considers the destruction of tracts of ancient forest or woodland in the interests of commerce to be an acceptable price to pay without fully appreciating and factoring in the longer term value of the “ecosystem services” associated with tracts of land, mountains, streams, rivers, oceans and the air we breathe? These are often irreplaceable and sometimes hidden services which, collectively, add value to human’s quality of life, health and wellbeing and the long-term health and sustainability of this tiny planet of ours. As a consumer, do I care more about the price of goods I buy than the cost to the planet of getting them to me at that price?
I was prompted to write this article by an unexpected exchange I had recently with a complete stranger living in Australia. She, like me and 5500 other part-time artists, has kicked off 2020 by taking part in a “Sketchbook Challenge”[i] – producing a daily sketch in response to a subject prompt provided by the organiser and sharing this on a Facebook group. One particular prompt was “Supermarkets” and, short of time and inspired by a walk in some local woods, I decided to sketch a line of tree trunks which reminded me of the ubiquitous bar code used by all stores to price up goods. (Perhaps, I thought, ‘bark code” might be more accurate in this context!)
My quick drawing obviously struck a chord with a fellow sketcher from down under who responded with a stark picture of a similar line of trees with the sad difference that hers were standing charred and lifeless as a result of the recent bushfires. She added:
“Your “bark code” is a great thought. The tree image brings to mind our post bushfire scenes in Australia. What price are we paying?…. In their distress, Australians have been hugely moved by the care and concern from other countries. And many of us hope it translates into far deeper global action”.
Image of woodland devastated by bushfires in Australia
At the time of writing the bush fires have claimed 28 lives and burned an estimated 100,000 km2 (15.6 million acres) of bush, forest and parks across Australia – equivalent of 40% of the entire UK. According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) an estimated 1.25 billion animals have been affected, including 30% of the entire koala population in mid-north coast of New South Wales.
Whilst not new (and, arguably, in proportion, bush fires are a natural and necessary part of the way ecosystems regenerate), the scale, ferocity and duration of the current fires is exceptional. As WWF highlight “these catastrophic megafires are worsening the extinction crisis we are already facing”. Climate change is recognised as a significant factor in all this and yet, collectively, we still seem to be prepared to pay the price for carbon-fuelled goods and services that contribute to global warming without fully realising the damage being done and the value to long term quality of life on our planet that is being stripped out by them.
Sadly, the list is long of other aspects of the natural environment whose value – from our day to day buying choices – we appear not to fully appreciate:
- One million species (about one eight of the total) are at risk of extinction due to the change of use of land and sea, pollution, climate change and over exploitation of resources
- Eight million tonnes of plastic are thrown into our oceans each year – much of which breaks down into toxic microplastic. On average, we each ingest 5 grams of plastic each week (about one credit card’s worth)
- 17% of the Amazonian rainforest – the lungs of our planet – have been destroyed over the past 50 years
- Despite the national commitments made via the 2016 Paris Agreement, carbon emission curbs are not currently enough to prevent global temperatures rising above the 2 degC target level
In his recent speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, HRH The Prince of Wales highlighted the importance of making the sustainable options the “trusted and attainable options for consumers”. He highlighted that, with consumers controlling an estimated 60 per cent of global GDP, “people around the world have the power to drive the transformation to sustainable markets. Yet, we cannot expect consumers to make sustainable choices if these choices are not clearly laid before them. As consumers increasingly demand sustainable products, they deserve to be told more about product lifecycles, supply chains and production methods. For a transition to take place, being socially and environmentally conscious cannot only be for those who can afford it. If all the true costs are taken into account, being socially and environmentally responsible should be the least expensive option because it leaves the smallest footprint behind. We must communicate better with consumers about the sustainability of the goods, services and investments we offer.”
Being better informed about the long term sustainability impact of the goods and services we buy is a key step in helping us to make sustainable buying decisions. Not only can we know the up front price but we can decide if that price is right considering the value of the resources required to produce or provide these goods and services. Through these decisions we can play our part in this critical decade to protect those resources. Perhaps the time has come for us to “bark code” all our forests, mountains, streams, rivers and oceans?
(This article also appears in February 2020 edition of the Messenger – the monthly publication of the Manchester Law Society)
Standing up for Snowflakes
As we enter a new decade is it time to ditch the expression ‘Snowflake Generation’ – young adults of the 2010s who are accused of being hypersensitive and prone to take offence too easily? Our so called ‘Snowflakes’ are open to easy jibes at their phone addiction, their predilection to eat Avo on Toast and Instagram the experience, accusations they live a virtual life on social media and not an actual one. All too often these young people have been the butt of jokes from us oldies, the baby boomer and 60’s generation who have a tendency to fall into their own stereotypes of ‘you don’t know how lucky you are’ type comments.
As a parent of two ‘snowflakes’ I think it’s time for a bit of a rethink from those of us the other side of 50. Young people today are far worse off than we were at their age. We left higher education with no millstone of fee debt around our necks, free to walk into one job one day and out of it to another the next as the whim took us. Free to make our mistakes – fashion, romance, food – in relative obscurity without someone sticking it on Facebook or twitter.
Snowflakes I would argue are hypersensitive – they are anxious and it seems their anxiety is justified. Data from Children and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHs) shows a spike in the number of young people suffering from mental ill health. There has been a sharp rise, up 37%, in young people admitted to hospital with eating disorders this year and alarmingly 12 deaths in the last 7 years. Eco-Anxiety is a reality for many and a growing sense of worry about the world and its’ future keeps many awake at night as well as propelling them onto the streets.
One of my campaigns for 2020 is to reclaim the Snowflake label – not write off young adults as over sensitive delicate young plants, but respect and understand the anxieties they carry. Real snowflakes are miracles of nature, each one unique in its form and structure, needing careful handling but we miss so much if we fail to observe their innate beauty and specialness. The same is true of our young adults – let’s stand up for Snowflakes and celebrate them instead of writing them off.
Practising law with both my heart and my head – responding to the climate challenge
My father took part in D Day. The war coloured the lives and attitudes of his generation. My daughters are on track, the science tells us, to lead lives dominated by runaway climate heating and the sixth mass extinction. My peers and I, meanwhile, are the first generation to understand fully the implications of our lifestyles and the last blessed with the opportunity to avert its most devastating impacts.
So, to generalise, we have not had such traumatic experiences to contend with, we have caused more carbon emissions than any others and we are at risk of blowing our chance to make a positive difference. This has come to dominate my approach to life as a lawyer and it is both uncomfortable and inspiring.
It is uncomfortable because it means making many changes to how I work:
– Rather than saying I am doing my job simply by furthering my clients’ interests, I am thinking of the regulatory objective of Legal Services Act to “protect and promote the public interest” and considering what impact the activities I am enabling will have on the environment and society more widely and seeking to help clients, intentionally, to make this more positive
– Rather than putting my head alone at the disposal of clients and colleagues, I am allowing my heart to engage also. This makes me vulnerable but puts the whole me at the clients’ service, offering something relational, not merely transactional
– Rather than focusing entirely on this financial year and the billing within it, I am thinking about how actions and decisions will be construed in a few years time, when endeavours to preserve the status quo and (certain) arguments founded on precedence will seem laughable where given priority over emissions reduction and biodiversity protection or restoration
Above all, I want to avoid being guilty by omission; by refusing to acknowledge and to use the influence I have, as a lawyer, to affect positively how we act collectively in these critical years. I remain mindful of Hannah Arendt’s comment that, ‘The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.’
Yet I am inspired because whilst change is challenging, and in this case involves so much more than marginal tweaks to preserve business as usual, the prize – survival for the species in a flourishing future world – is massive. Or, as Joanna Macy more eloquently puts it, this is a moment of choice greater than any other in history. We have an absolute requirement to honour life and whether we make it or not, these are exquisite times to be alive.
And this is why I am thrilled that my colleagues at Bates Wells have acknowledged the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis and have made a series of commitments in response to it. I relish the prospect of contributing to delivering on these commitments and supporting others across the profession to play their part, as I am confident I am not alone.
Blog by David Hunter
Charity & Social Enterprise Department
Bates & Wells LLP
5 Top Tips for Firms & Employees to Support #ClimateAction!
For firms not wishing to, or not able to, support the Global Climate Strike directly there are still lots of things both individuals and law firms can do to reduce their climate impact. Here are our top 5 but you can find lots more on our hints and tips pages on the LSA website.
1 Count your carbon – use one of the excellent free personal carbon counters such as WWF Carbon Footprint calculator to see just how carbon heavy your life is. Then once you know get your firm to measure its collective carbon footprint. Counting carbon is a baseline – once you know your footprint you can set targets and take measures to reduce your climate impact
2. Ban all single-use plastic – not just water bottles. The rise of the keep cup and reusable water bottle are great signifiers that people have got the message about plastic, but there is still so much single-use plastic in our shopping baskets and in our offices. Try avoiding single-use plastic food wrapping for a week – its really hard but if we stop buying food wrapped in plastic the supermarkets and suppliers will stop selling it. Call out suppliers of office products if they come wrapped in plastic or look into daily food van to deliver at your office.
3. Consume less – from fuel to fashion the less we buy and use the lower our climate impact will be. As individuals and as organisations. Cut down on consumption and on waste in the office – it will reduce your bills and save you carbon Change to EV fleet vehicles for example.
4. Be realistic and be kind to yourself – Climate consciousness is not a hair shirt. If you have to fly or drive try to be sensible, reduce the journeys if you can and where you can’t, consider environmental offsetting. The best way to do this is support a tree planting programme either here in the UK via The Woodland Trust or in the Amazon Rain Forest through Cool Earth
5. Spread the message – share your passion for the planet with everyone in your firm. If your firm is not a member of the LSA get them to join now – its free and its easy. If you are an in-house counsel or a barristers chambers’ you too can join.
Together we can act on Climate Change
Plastic reduction at Macfarlanes
At Macfarlanes, we are committed to reducing our use of plastic and other single-use, disposable materials. This is a core part our sustainability strategy for 2019, and is one of the areas in which we have been most successful in engaging staff and key stakeholders throughout the firm.
Support from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has been a key part of this initiative and we wanted to share our story with the LSA and inspire other members to tackle single use plastics in their firms.
Our plastic reduction initiative
Key elements of our plastic reduction initiative were as follows:
· removing all plastic / disposable cutlery and replacing it with permanent metal cutlery;
· almost entirely removing paper cups from the firm, replacing them with a stock of permanent tumblers and mugs;
· dramatically reducing the number of individual under-desk bins used throughout the firm – at last count, over 270 people had “binned” their bins, saving up to approx. 75,000 bin bags per year;
· encouraging solicitors to opt out of the Law Gazette, which is delivered wrapped in plastic and often makes its way straight to the bin (we wish the Gazette was digital by default!);
· supporting this with internal marketing and comms; and
· help from the MCS!
World Environment Day 2019: Lunch with the MCS
To mark World Environment Day on 5 June 2019, we hosted the MCS for a lunchtime discussion about marine plastic pollution. Anne Thwaites and Sanjay Mitra gave an engaging talk about the problem of marine plastic pollution, the incredible work of the MCS and things we can do as a firm and as individuals to reduce our plastic consumption. We also learnt what nurdles are!
The audience was really engaged there were some great questions from the floor covering plastic free and sustainable seafood choices, bamboo cotton buds, how best to engage sustainability laggards, and the importance of storytelling about plastic threats and plastic reduction successes.
MCS is a leading marine conservation charity in the UK. Since its beginnings in the 1970s MCS has achieved major successes in protecting marine wildlife, engaging tens of thousands of volunteers in the Beachwatch beach cleaning and litter survey programme, supporting better buying choices for sustainable seafood, and influencing Government and industry to tackle plastic pollution at home and in the workplace.
Staff engagement success
As with any sustainability initiative, staff engagement has been a key challenge in relation to our plastic reduction efforts. Communicating the reasons behind policy changes on things like cutlery and paper cups has been key to bring people onside and pre-empt criticisms, and for every sustainability-conscious member of staff, there are two or three waiting to be engaged.
The MCS lunch really helped with that and has contributed to a wonderful sense of momentum in the firm that we are keen to build on over coming weeks and months.
We had a wonderful response from attendees and, following the talk, many people across the firm took it upon themselves to cajole and encourage their departments to give up their desk bins with great success – contributing to the fantastic numbers listed above. The great thing about this is that the energy came from individuals throughout the firm, not just from our Environmental Committee. We think this is a great example of how a staff engagement event can lead to positive cultural change across the firm.
We also encouraged staff throughout the firm to go further and take up the MCS plastic free July challenge!
Like the sound of this?
If you would like to attempt something similar in your firm and would be interested in more detail about how we achieved this at Macfarlanes, please get in touch with Rob Clarke.
The MCS would also welcome contact from all and any LSA firms interested in tackling plastic use in their firms and contributing to the fight against marine plastic pollution. Please contact Anne Thwaites.
Blog by Robert Clarke, Macfarlanes
Quick Wins for an Environmentally Friendly Office
There are a number of quick and easy steps you can take to reduce your environmental impact and save you money. Here are some to get you started. For more ideas, visit the LSA Ideas Factory to share your own good practices with us.
Recycling/ Resource Use
- Provide glasses and mugs rather than disposable cups
- Limit use of disposable goods e.g. pens, in favour of reusable ones
- Make it easy for staff to recycle as much as possible; paper, card, glass, plastic, aluminium, CDs, batteries, old phones
- Take away individual waste bins from desks and replace with recycling bins
- Start composting food waste
- Lengthen the life of toner cartridges by adjusting printer settings in draft quality – and black and white
- Recycle used toner cartridges
- Recycle old computer equipment by giving it to local charities or community groups
- At Christmas, make a donation to charity rather than sending cards
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products
- Give an active preference to products with minimal packaging and that are locally sourced
- Discourage excessive ordering of stationary by installing a central ordering system
- Use local suppliers/caterers where possible
- Maximise savings by putting up signage (printed on scrap paper) reminding staff to save energy and reduce waste
- Fix dripping taps
- Only print when necessary
- Save paper costs by buying 100% recycled paper and reusing discarded paper for notes – recycle all double-sided ‘scrap’ and use single sided to make notepads
- Default printers to print double-sided
- Print internal documents in size 11 font and reduce the borders to 1.5cm
- Inform staff whether agenda and minutes will or won’t be available at meetings to avoid duplication of printing
- Send internal memos electronically
- Use ‘track changes’ to review documents rather than printing
- Cancel junk mail and unwanted publications
- Re-use bubble wrap, boxes and padded envelopes where possible
- Collect and re-use name badges after events and meetings where possible
- Minimise energy costs by ensuring that all equipment and lights are turned off (ie not left on standby) when not in use
- Install movement sensors to meeting rooms, encourage staff to switch off light switches by labelling light switches to indicate which area of the office they light – ask security to check all lights are switched off once the building is empty
- Encourage staff to switch off monitors when away from their desks for more than 5 – 10 minutes and to shut computers down when they leave the office. Turning off a single computer when not in use instead of on standby can save as much as £5 every year and turning one off that would have been on screen saver mode can save up to £45 a year
- Reduce energy bills by turning down the heating when it is not needed and always ensure that this is done before opening a window – check that heating is not timed to come on overnight or at weekends
- Turning the heating down by one degree saves 8% of the energy bill a year and the Environment Agency recommends 19 degrees Celsius is comfortable for most staff in the winter and 23 degrees Celsius in the summer
- If extra heating is needed, use oil-fuelled rather than electric fan heaters. They use 750w of energy as opposed to 3kw
- Ensure all light bulbs are energy efficient – LEDs are more efficient than halogen
- Ensure air conditioning vents or heating are not blocked by office furniture/boxes
- Switch your electricity supplier to a green tariff. Many suppliers will assist in monitoring energy use and promoting reduction
- Save time, inconvenience and pollution by using conference calls rather than travelling to meetings where possible
- Provide interest-free season ticket loans
- Use cycle couriers where possible
- Use LPG and/or carbon neutral taxi companies and encourage use of public transport whenever possible by making this easier to book through a central system
- Encourage staff to cycle to work by installing secure bike racks, shower facilities and cycle mileage allowance
- Introduce travel policies that reward car sharing
More ideas of how LSA members have made their firms more sustainable are included in the Ideas Factory – please share your own.