Sue, Gayle and I are currently in Colorado for the Socially Responsible Investing Conference, and there have been a number of interesting speakers. They have presented on a variety of topics related to our industry, and it has been really nice to be surrounded by people that think as we do about investing.
However, a large part of this conference has not been nice at all. A number of the speakers have had some news to share that has been nothing short of shocking, upsetting, and incredibly disconcerting. Experts on the environment, the climate and our earth have spoken on the incredible challenges we’re facing as it relates to climate change and ocean acidification. I consider myself someone that is pretty aware of the issues that we’re facing as it relates to climate change, but most of this was information that I did not know at all.
One of the speakers shared data on how much wildlife we’ve already lost, and how much more we’re going to lose. What made it so upsetting was that for many of these insects and animals, it’s already too late. The damage is done, and it will never recover. And of course, this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The impact of just one of these things happening has a domino effect, or a chain reaction. In one area of the world, they saw the percentage of insects decrease 70%. The birds and lizards that ate insects saw their percentages decrease by huge percentages as well. Their food was gone. The nature of the soil itself changed, with this loss of the insects that used to live there. Just one small example, and the impact was huge.
Jeremy Grantham, a very successful money manager and climate change activist painted a very dark picture. World populations will sky rocket in the coming years at the same time that the ability to grow food will get more challenging as climate change worsens. It will become impossible, literally impossible, to feed them. People will starve. Forced with the decision to either starve to death, or try to find food, we will see the largest migration of people in world history. European countries, already facing a refugee crisis, will become overwhelmed. What will the result of that be? Based on what we’re seeing around the world with the responses to immigration and and refugee crises, I am not optimistic that the response will be peaceful.
(See more of Jeremy Grantham’s thoughts here https://youtu.be/S1j0WFTkRUM)
Mr. Grantham talked too about letting go over the “perfect” and doing what is necessary. He explained that he’s a proponent of nuclear energy, because without it, we will release even more carbon into the air. He explained that he’d rather have another 1,000 years to solve the problem of nuclear waste, than not have those 1,000 years at all. He said too that we should forget entirely about coral reefs, because they cannot be saved. Between ocean acidification AND the warming of the water AND the worsening of run off, and on and on and on… that if it were just one of these issues, that we might be able to save them, but that its no longer possible. It brought tears to my eyes. They will die, and there’s nothing we can do to save them. It’s already too late.
I’ve just finished listening to Chad Myers, a meteorologist from CNN, who did not have better news. Slide after slide of his presentation showed how much the world has warmed, and in how little time. The severity of the storms, I knew. Or, I thought I knew. I watched the news and read the articles, but I didn’t really understand. 60 inches of rain from Harvey was, as Mr. Myers stated, “not once in a lifetime, but once in never”. The implications of how severe Harvey was are huge. He spoke about the severe crop killing droughts that we’re facing, and even more mind- blowingly huge storms. The effect of these will be nothing short of catastrophic.
I wanted them to end their presentations with the good news, but there wasn’t much. Jeremy shared information about an investment that his company made in a renewable energy storage company that has been seeing great success. The company has been able to develop a battery that can be fully charged in 6 minutes, and that is half the size of current batteries. Stories like this give us hope. I wanted to know the steps we could take, and hear a call to action for what we as individuals can do.
We need to double down on our efforts to convince our elected officials that this needs to be our priority. All the things we’re arguing about now will become irrelevant if our planet ceases to exist. We need to talk to people that we might not agree with, and explain the the solution is the same for our competing views on a problem. If an individual doesn’t want refugees and immigrants coming into our country, a wall is not going to be a solution. If those people are starving to death, and their children are starving to death, they will find a way over that wall. Stopping climate change in its tracks can be a part of the solution for people on both sides of that issue.
We need to start taking more personal responsibility for our role in contributing to climate change. We need to drive less, and if we can afford it, buy an electric vehicle. We need to go solar, either on the roof or as a participant in a community solar array. We need to look at all sources of renewable energy, and let go of the perfect in favor of good enough. We need to shop local. If your asparagus was shipped 4,000 miles to arrive at your grocery store, don’t buy it. If you’re shipping a pair of shoes from across the country, in a single use box, and it got there from several trucks and a plane, and was delivered directly to your doorstep, stop. If you’re getting in your car to drive a half a mile to the post office, don’t. Walk, or bike, or stop there on your way to somewhere else. Insulate your home, and if you can afford it, look at geothermal or heat pumps. HeatSmart CNY is launching their campaign next Thursday, November 15th. Go, and learn more about what you can do.
As a Socially Responsible Financial Advisor, I talk to my clients about how to invest money according to their values, and then how to leverage those assets to effect change through shareholder advocacy. We divest from fossil fuel companies, reinvest into companies that are embracing sustainability, and then engage with them to continue and advance their sustainability initiatives. This can have a broad impact in the reduction of emissions by helping companies to be more sustainable in their logistics, which means they drive less, by sourcing their materials sustainably, which stops deforestation, by sourcing their electricity from renewable sources, which means they’re not burning coal. You can do this too by investing in a socially responsible portfolio, and so can your friends and your family and your colleagues. You need to tell them about it so they can be a part of it with us. However, this will only be a part of the solution. Municipalities and governments around the country and the world need to be looking at so much more. There is only so much that companies can do.
The fact of the matter is, we cannot continue down this path. I will continue to do my part as a shareholder activist, and try to get more people to divest and reinvest into socially responsible investments. As a member of our global society, I will walk where I could have driven, I will buy local when I could have bought something online, and I will install a solar array just as soon as I can afford it. I will do whatever I can to stop climate change.
I hope you will too.