March 2012 Bar Bulletin
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March 2012 Bar Bulletin

Progress and Sustainability: Role in Our Future

By David R. Frankel


Lawyers, in our roles as counselors to businesses and governments, and frequently as influencers of societal decisions, are called upon to help our clients and larger elements of society make progress toward their goals. On occasion, we may help clients set their goals.

But what framework guides our thinking about the nature of progress itself? Are the goals toward which we strive not merely attainable, but also sustainable? If they are not, can their attainment truly be viewed as progress?

The overarching challenge of our times is to make progress toward sustainability: the continuing capacity of the Earth, the economy and our society to provide for our material and human needs and those of future generations. Daily headlines warn of changing climate, violent weather, depleted resources, depressed economies, disrupted societies, displaced populations, and, generally, a diminished future rushing toward an unprepared world at an ever-accelerating rate.

Whatever this future portends, it will not be reserved for those beyond our affluent and beautiful corner of the world here in King County. The future will arrive here, too. The good news is that we have a lot of influence over what that future will look like locally and beyond, and whether that future will continue to provide resources, sustenance, support and justice in our children's generation and beyond.

To help meet the challenges of sustainability, a group of concerned lawyers founded Washington Lawyers for Sustainability, a volunteer-run, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in 2009. The mission of WLS is to find effective ways for lawyers to use our professional skills and influence to move society in more sustainable directions, primarily through education, role modeling, client counseling and advocacy. The hope is that our work as lawyers will result in tangible accomplishments that amount to much more than reĀ­arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

There is a growing number of organizations dedicated to helping to assure a sustainable future. But very few of these are specifically seeking to involve lawyers or to address the barriers to sustainability in our legal system. WLS seeks to supply that critical missing piece and to be a resource for lawyers and others in their efforts to make our society more sustainable, here in Washington and elsewhere.

WLS's educational goal is to be a resource for authoritative information about live issues and developments at the nexus of law and sustainability. WLS has presented and will continue to develop CLE programs on law and sustainability issues that are also of interest to the broader community.

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