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Sustainability

July 13, 2011
"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...

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Sustainability means different things to different people.  It incorporates issues of the environment, such as global climate change, pollution and depletion of natural resources.  It deals with the human face of global scarcity, social justice and poverty.  It is a holistic framework to view the world in a new light and to see how we can create positive change.  Here are some of the most well-considered definitions from experts in the field:

Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Brundtland World Commission on the Environment and Development

Sustainability is a way of working and living that balances immediate needs for commerce, living, habitation, food, transportation, energy and entertainment with future needs for these resources and systems as well as the liveliness and support of nature, natural resources and future generations.

Natural Capitalism Solutions

Sustainability is about stabilizing the currently disruptive relationship between earth’s two most complex systems—humans culture and the living world.

Natural Capital Institute

Sustainable development is a process which enables all people to realize their potential and improve their quality of life in ways which protect and enhance the Earth’s life-support systems.
Jonathan Porritt, Forum for the Future

Continuous improvement of life quality that protects and balances the ecological, social and economic environments.
California Student Sustainability Coalition

Satisfying lives for all people while living within the means of nature. This requires that people do not use more ecological services than nature can regenerate.
Randy Hayes, International Forum on Globalization

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Hope, Not Fear – A New Relationship to Money and Material

July 15, 2011
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The current financial crisis has made me stop and think about my relationship to money and just what it provides you with. Is it an illusion that having a robust stock portfolio helps you feel secure or that when your 401k is up the future looks more rosy?  Now the illusion has been stripped away. People are waking up to the fact that, contrary to everything we have heard for many years now, money doesn’t make you happy.

According to Meadows, Meadows and Randers in “Beyond the Limits“, “People don’t need enormous cars; they need respect”  “They don’t need closets full of clothes; they need to feel attractive and they need excitement, variety, and beauty. People need identity, community, challenge, acknowledgment, love, joy.”  “To try to fill these needs with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems. The resulting psychological emptiness is one of the major forces behind the desire for material growth. A society that can admit and articulate its non-material needs and find non-material ways to satisfy them would require much lower material and energy throughputs and would provide much higher levels of human fulfillment.”
In “Insurmountable Opportunities?“, Hunter Lovins and Walter Link also point this out, “This work has caused a growing number of residents of North America and Europe to ask, “How much is enough, and whether consumerism, the accumulation of more stuff, is contributing to their happiness?’” Sustainability goes hand in hand with a society that values human, emotional needs over excessive material needs.
Meadows, Meadows and Randers are also clear that eliminating poverty is critical to achieving a sustainable future. “Sharing is a forbidden word in political discourse, probably because of the deep fear that real equity would mean not enough for anyone. ‘Sufficiency’ and ‘solidarity’ are concepts that can help structure new approaches to ending poverty. Everyone needs assurance that sufficiency is possible for everyone and that there is a high social commitment to ensure it. And everyone needs to understand that the world is tied together both ecologically and economically. There is enough to go around, if we manage well. If we don’t manage well, no one will escape the consequences.”
The zero sum game that has been American economic politics since Ronald Reagan will have to change radically to embody these kinds of ideas. The greed of Bernie Madoff and every Wall Street banker who decided to take advantage of loose regulations and uninformed investors should signal a turning point for us.  Sustainability is about more than running out of oil and climate change, it is about changing our culture to one that values life and the qualities that make life meaningful and fulfilling. I believe that change of this magnitude can happen, but only if it driven by a positive message of hope for a better future.

Originally published in Triple Pundit, April 15, 2009

The Sustainable MBA

July 14, 2011

I have spent the last two years studying sustainability at the Presidio Graduate School.  The program fully integrates traditional business subjects with sustainability in a holistic approach.  For instance, accounting includes the analysis of corporate social responsibility reports as well as financial data and economics looks at the un-priced costs of negative externalities such as industrial pollution and the distortion of our economy by a GDP which encourages unrestricted growth and includes the cost of cleaning up Superfund pollution sites as productive spending.

My background in construction and the water industry led me to initially focus on green building.  During my exploration of capital markets I became passionate about Impact Investing and Social Capital Markets.  I worked with Inner City Advisors which furthered my excitement as I met many of the mission driven entrepreneurs creating thriving businesses in the Bay Area.

My time at Presidio completely shifted my focus and my outlook on the world.  I can no longer stand on the sidelines when issues I am aware of need attention.  I can only call it a transformational education process.