More than 50 lawyers, law students, and community members gathered on February 10, 2012, at the Barry University School of Law for the third annual Future Generations Conference, hosted by the Center for Earth Jurisprudence.  The program, True Wealth in a Green World, explored an expanded definition of wealth that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

For its theme, the conference drew upon an older definition of wealth that meant “welfare, weal, and abundance,” an original meaning not linked to material possessions or money value.  As Sister Patricia Siemen, CEJ’s director, observed, “This underlying other meaning remains:  that which gives abundance, welfare, good living. True wealth is the welfare and the well-being of the larger community that includes the needs and good of the individual.”

The conference was opened by award-winning environmental writer and documentary filmmaker Bill Belleville, who encouraged the audience to re-encounter the unique “sense of place” created by Florida’s natural areas, and to appreciate the essential contributions of land, water, plants and animals, as well as Florida’s human explorers and inhabitants, to the Florida experience.  Mr. Belleville’s latest book, Salvaging the Real Florida:  Lost & Found in the State of Dreams, was recently awarded the National Outdoor Book Award for natural history literature.

Speakers & Organizers for True Wealth (L-R): Kelly Swartz, Jane Goddard (organizer), Sr. Patricia Siemen (organizer), Tia Meer, Janelle Orsi, Don Hall, Law School Dean Leticia Diaz, Janie Barrera, and Bill Belleville

Janelle Orsi, a “sharing lawyer” from California who co-directs the Sustainable Economies Law Center, introduced the new practice area of sharing law, which has recently been recognized by the American Bar Association as a new specialty area, helping clients navigate the legal challenges posed by such environmentally friendly practices as food co-operatives, car sharing, and urban farming.  She offered a new model for legal practice, based upon data showing that about 70% of potential clients, those in the middle of the economic spectrum, are underserved by the legal community, and suggesting that legal job growth will come from serving that client base.  Her approach generated much interest among the Barry law school alumni in attendance.  Ms. Orsi is finishing a book on sharing law, following the success of her earlier work, The Sharing Solution:  How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community.

Janie Barrera, president and CEO of AccionTexas, the largest non-profit microlender in the United States, explained the vision and philosophy that created the company and grew it into a multi-million dollar operation with ten offices in three states, more than 2,200 active clients, and a payback rate above 90%. Under her leadership, ACCIONTexas provides vital funding to small businesses that do not qualify through banks.  Ms. Barrera credits the company’s relationship-building with their borrowers—car lots, hair salons, restaurants, and daycare centers, to name a few—to their high payback rate. She emphasized how a new model of lending can benefit communities by overcoming the flaws in the traditional economic system.

The individual presentations were followed by a panel discussion of additional aspects of true wealth.  Kelly Swartz, Esq., founder of IngenuityLaw, a boutique intellectual property firm, explained how she “rebalanced her life account” by choosing to start her own firm.  Tia Meer, president of the Simple Living Institute, discussed the real value of food and included information about sustainable gardening in Florida.  Don Hall, executive director of Transition Sarasota, provided a history of energy consumption and current consumer lifestyles, and offered a model for communities to transition to more sustainable ways of living and working.

Highlights will be available soon via video on this page, along with presentation slides.

The Future Generations conference represents an ongoing effort by the Center for Earth Jurisprudence to provide education and probe significant areas of the essential task of this generation:  reconciling current human needs and the needs of future generations of all species.

To join the Center for Earth Jurisprudence mailing list and receive notification of future conferences and events, contact Jane Goddard at jgoddard@barry.edu or (321) 206-5788.

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