Saturday, October 24, 2009

Changing finance - Financing change

I recently came across this wonderful image of a butterfly used on the poster for the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) 2009 Global Roundtable in Cape Town, South Africa (held 22-23 October 2009). The purpose of the meeting was "to explore ways towards achieving sustainable financial markets and economies".

Interesting image:

Reminds me of a couple of things:

First, ecological modernisation - the ugly Caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly - but have unsustainable financial markets and rationalist accounting systems really begun to 'change' into butterflies? Or are there simply planning more beautiful caterpillars which will continue to 'eat us out of house and home'? After all, the old 'ugly caterpillars' of 'progress' have already caused a lot of damage to the ecosystems of Earth.

Given that there is much being done by many businesses to become 'green' and much still to be done, the question remains 'is enough really being done?' or are we fooling ourselves that we are on the right track?

Second, the image reminds economists that biodiversity (esp. butterflies) and the environment are as important as having a healthy economy. Or will people simply want to continue to spray it with some (often hideous) chemical, already on sale for just such a purpose. Current thinking often suggests a narrow and technocratic 'solution' to 'cure' the increasing level of nasty 'bugs' we face. This global round table suggests that at least some economists are starting to rethink the basic assumptions of economics. Changing economics itself is definitely needed if we are ever going to build a sustainable society, but we also need to change the way we think about 'nature' itself. This is going to be difficult, given that many now live in unsustainable cities that are (often) far removed from 'nature' and its complex ecosystems. But we all need clean air to breath and clean water to drink and a climate that can support the ecosystems that humans depend upon. So really, we need to make some progress in the way way we think about the world around us all.

Third, the butterfly effect. This reminds me of the Ray Bradbury science-fiction story on the effects that follow from the actions of one butterfly (among others such as HG Wells "The Time Machine"). The effects of changing the way finance is regulated will have many profound effects indeed, but without proper levels of finance and technical support for the developing world to take up renewable energy technology, for example, there will never be a solution that is acceptable to the developing world in the upcoming Copenhagen climate change conference in December. Not long to go now to get things in place.

Anyway, it is good to see some high level discussion of including social and environmental concerns into finance. I also like the 'financing change - changing finance' dualism, but wonder if perhaps this is a large part of the problem. Many people (including many economists and many governments) still see the choice as one of jobs versus the trees or economy versus the environment.

See my post on topic here.

What is needed is a wider (more holistic) worldview that considers the many things that cannot be measured using rationalistic methods (or worse done poorly) and are therefore given less importance in the 'grand scheme of things'.

** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:

Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment'

How to save the planet?

Overcoming barriers to beat climate change

New Green Jobs ??

Top 10 Environmental Posts


So please, tell us what you think.

1 comment:

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