Friday, September 30, 2011

Sustainable Economy 2040

Forum for the Future has produced a great report for Aviva Investors called sustainable economy in 2040: a roadmap for capital markets (pdf)

In focusing on a key leverage point -- capital markets -- and taking a backcasting approach, the report gets around the usual stalemate of investors seeing the way things are and investing accordingly, while many in civil society cry foul as those investments accelerate our progress down an unsustainable path; and provides actionable steps for the investment community to take in creating a sustainable society.

It provides the rationale for why and strategies for how investors can be more proactive in creating the kind of economy we need in the long-run, with a focus on 5 key areas: energy, health & wellbeing, mobility, food, and finance.

The report also serves as a call to action ahead of the Rio +20 summit in June 2012.

A great resource, and worth the read.

Stay going.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Global Green - I Am

A new video from Global Green about rising sea levels from climate change via Fast Company:

Check out Global Green.

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Sustainability Bubble

A couple of weeks ago, Yale e360 published a great article by Christian Schw√§gerl titled "A Planetary Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste." It's a nice straightforward piece highlighted the similar dynamics in the failing economic system and failing ecological system.

The two of course are inexorably linked - or I should say, the economic system is a subset of the ecological system, the former doesn't exist without the latter (ecological systems of course would go right on truckin' in the absence of a human economic system).

Image: Erik Madigan Heck for 
The New York Times
This recent article about Jeremy Grantham - "Can Jeremy Grantham Profit from Ecological Mayhem?" - reinforces this basic tenet of sustainability.  As we approach "Peak Everything Else," we are inflating the biggest bubble of all time - but it's not prices that will fall when it bursts, it's our complex modern society.

Image: Chelsea Green
Given the size of the 'sustainability bubble' it inflates more slowly and there are factors that periodically let air out or enable it to grow bigger without popping, but eventually we know it will pop if we don't make dramatic changes to the way we do things.  Just like there were plenty of people who were brushed off for years as they pointed out the housing and credit bubble would burst, people who have been bringing attention to the sustainability crisis have had trouble really breaking into the mainstream - dismissed as alarmists.  Forty years ago the authors of Limits to Growth faced this dismissal.  Many often point to the famous bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon that the article references as proof that technology and innovation will save us when the price signals demand it; they picked 5 commodities and bet if their prices would be higher in the next 10 years.  Simon bet innovation would bring the prices down and he was right, 5-0.  But, as the article points out, today Ehrlich's winning 4-1.

Image: Chelsea Green
Alan AtKisson's Believing Cassandra does an excellent job of articulating this dilemma.  Of course, those of us who are shouting from the rooftops that there's trouble ahead want to be wrong.  We work every day to ensure that we are wrong.  The changes we need to make -- in our policies, our lifestyles, our technologies, our economic systems, our worldviews -- will enable us to create a sustainable future.  When we're successful in doing that, by definition, we will be wrong about the sustainability bubble bursting.  We will have avoided it.  And if we're not wrong - if we don't enact the shift to sustainability fast enough; well, it will make our current bubble-burst woes look like a holiday.

To systems-thinkers the parallels between economic bubbles and sustainability are obvious.  As a system is pushed beyond certain thresholds, it collapses or jumps to a new state.  We will cross that threshold as a global human society.  Our great challenge is to ensure that we do so by jumping to a new state - a sustainable society - and avoid devastating population collapse and further wholesale destruction of the life-support system upon which we depend.

It's encouraging to know there are investors like Grantham out there - sharing this perspective with a voice that is respected and credible with the mainstream investment community.  And it's heartening to see that his foundation is making such smart investments as well.

Stay going.