It’s no surprise, then, that L’Esperance, 26, has focused his time, interest, and energy on environmental and marine law. During his undergraduate studies at the University of King’s College, he studied economics and Italian. “I wasn’t really thinking about law at that time,” he says. “But I took courses in environmental economics and poverty and inequality, and I loved studying social issues at Dal.”
L’Esperance was drawn to apply to Schulich because he knew it had a strong marine and environmental law program. “I’ve always been interested in all things maritime,” he says. “I grew up hiking near the water, and my family had a sailboat.” He felt that Schulich’s Marine & Environmental Law Institute (MELAW) was unique in Canada; this year, he’ll graduate with a certificate of specialization in marine law and will have completed several courses in environmental law.
“The whole faculty is very committed to teaching, and they’re all doing their own fascinating research,” says L’Esperance. “It’s wonderful for students to see how their skills and knowledge can be applied in the real world. They’re also eager to engage students. I was the copy editor for the Ocean Yearbook in first and second year, and I spent the summer of first year doing research on global offshore wind farms for Professor Aldo Chircop. I love how the students and faculty collaborate.”
During the second semester of first year, L’Esperance joined the Environmental Law Students’ Society (ELSS), which focuses on environmental issues as they relate to the law. Of the 35 students and non-students in the group, about 20 of them are core members. The ELSS organizes guest lectures, community collaborations, environmental law-oriented events, and social outings.
In one of those outings this past October, 20 ELSS students hiked on McNabs Island. “Outings like that promote team building,” says L’Esperance, who is one of the Society’s co-chairs. “And it gives the students—especially those from outside the province—a chance to see some of our beautiful natural settings.”
Environmentalism is in everyone’s best interest. We all want a clean, healthy environment. The future climate change forecasts are pretty grim, but that’s no excuse for inaction.
The ELSS works with the East Coast Environmental Law Association to pair students who want to do research projects to gain real-world knowledge. It also partners with other societies and faculties at Dalhousie, including the Dean’s Sustainability Council at Schulich, to propose ways to make the university more energy efficient.
Rowing for nature In 2013, L’Esperance took his environmentalism to a new level when he spent part of the winter, spring, and summer (between 500 and 600 hours) building a wooden dory at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s boat shop on the Halifax waterfront. The “working exhibit” allowed community members to help with certain parts of the building process and culminated in a 16-foot John Gardner Swamscott dory.
L’Esperance named his dory Gioventù (Italian for “youth” or “adolescence”). “I chose that name because it calls to mind qualities such as new perspectives, energy, and ambition—qualities I believe will be vital in addressing climate change’s challenges,” he says.
When the dory was ready, L’Esperance rowed solo from Halifax to the LaHave River and back between August 1 and 8. It took 60 hours to complete the 275-kilometre round trip, for which he raised $3,300 for the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. After he finished the journey, he donated the dory to the Nature Trust, which sold it for $4,500 and kept the proceeds as a second donation. “My goal was to raise funding for and awareness of the importance of coastal conservation,” he says. “On the water and while I was camping, I saw seals, fish, eagles, deer, rabbits, and lynx—it was pretty awesome.”
Engaging the community
L’Esperance’s environmental activism didn’t stop there. Through the ELSS, he conceived of a community-based Carbon Consultancy renewable-energy pilot project that provides indiviuals, businesses and organizations with the opportunity to address their carbon emissions by contributing to campus-based renewable energy projects. The project proposes that a five-kilowatt solar panel be installed on the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (DLAS) office in Halifax’s north end.
The installation’s estimated cost is $32,500; by March L’Esperance and the ELSS had raised over $27,000 through successful pitches to interested sponsors that range from large organaizations such as McInnes Cooper ($10,000) to medium-sized ones such as Glubes Lofts on Gottingen Street ($1,000) to small businesses such as Saint Lou’s Gentlmen’s Barber Shop in Historic Properties (it’s providing patrons with the option to pay an additional 10 cents per haircut to reflect the emissions associated with the service).
McInnes Cooper’s contribution to the project is unique. The firm calculated how much it would cost to offset annual work-related employee air travel through contributing to standard carbon-offset projects, such as those provided by Air Canada when you buy a flight ticket, which amounted to around $5,000 annually. Rather than direct those funds to Air Canada-sponsored projects, they chose to donate the funds to the DLAS solar-panel installation. They’ve committed to donating two annual instalments of $5,000 to mitigate work-related travel emissions.
“The goal is to open up channels for individuals, businesses, and organizations to bring more renewable-energy installations into the community,” says L’Esperance, who is the project’s lead. (It was the director of Dalhousie’s Office of Sustainability, Rochelle Owen, who suggested putting the panels on the DLAS.) The panels will produce net emission reductions of roughly 71,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide during its 30-year lifecycle and will lower the DLAS’s energy costs by more than $24,000 over that time period. Other Dalhousie partners include the Marine Environmental Law Program, the Advancement Office, Facilities Management, and Financial Services.
Being involved in the Carbon Consultancy is a lot of work, but it’s fun talking to people about how they can make the environment cleaner. It’s giving faculty and staff, students, and community members an opportunity to shape the place where they work, study, and live.
L’Esperance will continue raising funds for the Carbon Consultancy while he wraps up his final year of law school. After he graduates, he plans to article with McInnes Cooper. “They have strong marine and environmental law groups, which is the sort of work I’m interested in,” he says. The firm’s collective social responsibility program, which gets lawyers and staff involved in the community, also appeals to him.
Beyond that, L’Esperance knows he’ll be involved in planet-friendly endeavours for the rest of his life. “Environmentalism is in everyone’s best interest—we all want a clean, healthy environment,” he says. “The future climate change forecasts are not optimistic, but that’s no excuse for inaction.”
Carbon Consultancy: How it works
What do one of Atlantic Canada’s largest law firms, a diversified consultancy and a barbershop have in common? They are committed to addressing their carbon emissions and, ultimately, climate change. Here’s how they contributed to the Carbon Consultancy:
McInnes Cooper was the first to embrace the project. To mitigate emissions associated with employee business travel over a two-year period, the firm pledged $10,000 over two years to the project.
Group ATN Consulting Inc. measured the carbon emissions generated by the operation of their offices. They offered their clients the option to pay a premium to reflect those emissions, which worked out to be a modest $1.33 per billable hour but has the potential to generate over $2,000 annually.
Saint Lou’s Gentleman’s Barber Shop is located in Historic Properties in Halifax. It measures its carbon emissions by calculating the average emission generated by each haircut. For 2016 Saint Lou’s will offer its patrons the option to pay 10 cents per haircut.
Other participating businesses include a sole-practitioner law office; ProOceanus, a scientific instruments company; and a local loft development, Glubes Lofts.