Sustainability Sails: A Clearwater View of Manhattan

A few nights ago, I gave a talk aboard the Clearwater sloop – a 106-foot wooden sailing sloop designed after 18th and 19th century Dutch sailing sloops – at an event sponsored by Earth Share. As we sailed around the Hudson River, I spoke with a group of environmental and corporate executives about how to green their businesses.

There could not have been a better setting. With a cool spring breeze, and the sun setting behind the Palisades, we had a rare glimpse of Manhattan. I was reminded of how easy it is for environmental lawyers, and sustainability executives, to forget about the environments we live in.

For instance, when I was Chairman of the Environmental Law Committee for the House of the Association of the Bar of New York, I realized that almost nobody on the committee had ever seen the environment of New York harbor. They had never even been on Jamaica bay. These were people who had been environmental lawyers in New York for 10 to 15 years.  So we organized a trip on the Clearwater – the same boat I was on a few days ago.

When you’re out on the water, circling Manhattan by the wind’s power, you’re reminded of what an extraordinary environment this city is. You see all the rocks and water, all the trees and birds. It really is an amazing place.
E.O.Wilson, the father of the science of biodiversity, spoke to a group of NRDC members not too long ago. His one piece of advice was that we need to get our kids out into the environment. We’re raising a generation of people who have no connection to the natural world. And with no connection to the world, how can you really understand and be motivated and committed to environmental protection?

I would say the same for environmental lawyers and sustainability executives. It’s easy for us to let our schedules run our lives; we work long hours, often in meetings, with little natural light. 

What this means is that as we talk about greening our businesses, we should also remember to green our own personal ethics. Prioritize getting outside for a run or a boat ride on the weekend. Walk to work in the morning. Do what you can to remind yourself of the world we’re working so hard to protect.