by Hotfrog CEO Laurie Lane-Zucker
If you want to see a mathematical formula that neatly and only somewhat simplistically captures the plight of 21st Century humanity, here it is:
X = 392 + 10.5 – 1
In this equation, X stands for Where We Are Now. The rest is broken out thus: 392 (parts per million) is the current CO2 level in the atmosphere, which is already 42ppm beyond where many well-informed sources say we need to be. 10.5 is the number of people (in billons) projected to exist on the planet by 2050. 1 stands for Earth — our single planetary ecosystem.
As Naomi Klein writes in The Nation, “today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.”
As one reflects on the unusually strong cries of protest from the Occupy Wall Street movement, hopes grow that the desperate calls for reform will turn into actual enlightened solutions. If this is to really happen, however, I believe we must not only take the equation X = 392 + 10.5 – 1 seriously into account, but place it at the very center of the discussion.
Calling for an end to government subsidies and bailouts provided to those responsible for a significant share of the damage is a start. But this kind of incremental action alone will not solve our serious long-term problems since the problems are deeply systemic in nature and derive from the way humans think and live.
Wall Street is such a natural focal point for the struggle not simply because of its power and influence, but also because it is so transparently grounded in one-dimensional thinking — a rabid idolatry of the Single Bottom Line, where financial return is first, last and everything in between. This economic fundamentalist religion seeks to “save us” by recapturing and maintaining the “growth economy.”
In the context of our true reality, X = 392 + 10.5 – 1, these base (pun intended) assumptions used for the bricks and mortar of Wall Street and most other finance-dependent institutions on the planet are, quite simply,
Do the Occupy Wall Street protestors have X = 392 + 10.5 – 1 in mind as they raise their voices? I really don’t know, but if I were to guess I would have to say no. Because if they were fully conscious of the equation, they would not only be attempting to occupy Wall Street but REPLACE Wall Street.
It is widely understood among students of world wisdom traditions that you can’t solve a serious systemic problem without successfully transcending the consciousness that created it. I attended the Clinton Global Initiative a few weeks ago. One afternoon’s session consisted of discussions around the theme of Sustainable Consumption. President Obama agreed to participate.
Maybe not surprisingly, in his remarks the President did not so much as whisper a word about sustainable consumption — i.e. how much the average human being can realistically and ethically consume in X = 392 + 10.5 – 1. Instead, the President gave his jobs speech.
“We will grow our way out of our problems,” he declared.
Actually, no we can’t. We would need 3-4 more planets to do this (as his predecessor and non-candidate Bill Clinton presciently pointed out in that same session).
Clearly, there are some issues a sitting President simply can’t say to his electorate, even if he believes in them strongly enough to participate in a public forum on those issues.
Replacing Wall Street is both harder and easier than it looks. It is harder because “Wall Street” (a.k.a. single bottom line craziness) is so deeply established within the system — like a growing blockage in our aorta.
It is harder than it looks also because Wall Street is, in fact, Main Street. This perspective may differ from the views of some of the occupiers, but the truth is that Main Street operates by many of the same flawed rules and assumptions as Wall Street. The main difference is that a resident of Main Street suffers more than someone on Wall Street from the flaws and inequities in the system.
It is also harder because Wall Street and Main Street share the same intersection with Easy Street. Easy Street is the one-dimensional notion that a vibrant growth economy will create long-term prosperity.
In X = 392 + 10.5 – 1, Easy Street is a Dead End.
Problem: nobody posted the sign.
Happily, replacing Wall Street in some ways may be easier than it looks. Why? Because its replacement has already been built.
It is called Impact Street.
Impact Street looks a little like Wall Street in that it possesses a similar array of institutions acting as infrastructure for its vision of the economy. But instead of buildings that worship at the temple of the single bottom line, the edifices on Impact Street are triple bottom line — a “blended value” of Social, Environmental, and Financial. They, like the real world, are three-dimensional.
Like Wall Street, Impact Street has its own certification agencies (B Corp, GIIRS, and IRIS, as contrasted with Moody’s and S&P), investment intermediaries (like GIIN, ImpactAssets, and WillowTree Investments) run by experienced financial professionals, and even its own regulated exchanges (Mission Markets, Gate Technologies, NEXII, and Impact Partners, instead of Dow Jones and NASDAQ).
Impact Street is also populated by an increasing number of companies like my early stage Founding B Corporation and GIIRS Pioneers Company, Hotfrog. Impact companies like Hotfrog are certified, triple bottom line. This means we answer to stakeholders as well as shareholders. We answer directly to the planet and its peoples.
Impact Street’s investors are called impact investors. They believe they have a responsibility to make sure their money does more than breed with itself.
Because Impact Street exists in three-dimensional reality, many of those who work in the single-dimensional world of Wall Street, and some of those who are currently occupying Wall Street, may not recognize it as The Solution. Impact Street is more revolutionary than evolutionary, and so its forms are unfamiliar. For some these new forms create discomfort, that is until they “take the red pill” and begin to see reality differently.
Label Warning: once you swallow this red pill, you can’t — or at least you won’t want to — go back to the same old matrix. The old world of business suddenly seems as stale as 100 pinstripe-suited Mr. Smiths.
Impact’s reality can be that immersive and beautiful. And complex.
The Impact Economy is not a growth economy. It is a consolidation economy dependent on sustainable measures of human and natural capital. It is about figuring out how to occupy Planet Earth, not simply Wall Street.
Impact Street is an authentic solution for the X = 392 + 10.5 – 1 challenges we face. In an impact world, we don’t occupy Wall Street. We replace Wall Street.
Go to previous article: Clinton Global Initiative: Impact Investing and the God Particle
Go to next article:
Impact Entrepreneur: Let’s End the Social Entrepreneurship Ponzi Scheme
Laurie Lane-Zucker is the Founder & CEO of the world’s first “global impact” company, Hotfrog LLC. Hotfrog is one of the earliest residents of Impact Street, and on February 1, 2011 became the first company ever to complete a transaction on a regulated impact investing exchange. Laurie is the former Executive Director of The Orion Society, where he established the first and (now) largest network of environmental and social justice organizations in North America, the Orion Grassroots Network, and co-developed the vibrant Place-Based Education movement, which advances the art of “re-place-ment.”
Category: Sustainable Small-B