Having spent more than 18 years in the investment industry, I have come to understand the inner workings of a complicated system. I have worked as a broker for a regional brokerage firm, and I've built a boutique investment advisory firm that manages more than $150 million for private clients and corporate retirement plans. I have come to understand the motivations of those who embrace our current economic scheme, and because of this, I can no longer remain silent: the prospect of a human future based on the premise of unlimited economic growth fueled by unlimited consumption is an impossibility that must be wholly rejected.
In simple terms, our free-market consumption-based system must be dismantled and replaced with a sustainable economic model based on asset preservation and environmental stewardship. Find out why below the orange dust cloud...
Our current economic system as we have built it is simply insatiable. It’s appetite for energy and natural resources is in direct conflict with our human need for a stable global environment. As we have largely exhausted the “low hanging fruit” of easy-to-access oil fields, we are now turning to deep-water and horizontal drilling. As demand for natural gas has skyrocketed due to a growing economy, we are now turning to “fracking” with devastating sand losses and groundwater contamination. As iron ore resources are becoming depleted, we are turning toward increasingly risky mining operations that have the potential to decimate fresh water resources.
Our pristine timber reserves that one-hundred years ago were converted into agricultural land are now being devoured by developers of houses, condominiums, apartment buildings and retail space. No land is sacred.
And our once clean Wisconsin air is now contaminated by particulates, gasoline emissions and smog from the megalopolis of Milwaukee and Chicago. One only has to look south on a sunny day to view the hazy-grey evidence of economic growth run amok.
I can no longer remain silent on an issue that has eaten away at my soul for nearly two decades: my industry mistakenly believes that unlimited economic growth fueled by consumption is both possible and desirable. It is neither.
And the people in my industry cannot shoulder the blame for this alone. We are all responsible for creating an economy of endless consumption through what we thought were the right reasons: growth will lead to prosperity for all, growth will distribute resources fairly, growth will get us out of debt, and growth is good. But instead of accepting limits of growth (as we see in the God-created natural world), we have together taken the extraordinary steps of selling our future for growth now. This was a horrible mistake that we must undo.
A future under the assumption that infinite growth can exist in a finite world is a future of environmental devastation. It is a future of resource elimination and depletion. It is a future of great pain and inconvenience and destruction that no human would ever choose on their own. Yet it is a future that is inevitable unless we change course now. We must forever destroy the mistaken assumption that endless consumption and growth is good. The time for thinking is over – the time for action is now.
To avoid this future path we must now begin the process of dismantling the financial infrastructure of endless consumption and growth and replace it with a financial infrastructure of sustainability, thanksgiving and abundance. It’s that simple.
We must re-imagine the current monetary infrastructure that works to stimulate economic consumption and growth through engineered credit and inflation (The Federal Reserve). We must re-engineer the institutions of financialization, (investment banks, hedge funds, private capital funds and brokerage firms) that work to engineer artificial investment growth through short-term thinking, derivatives and leverage. We must eliminate aspects of the current tax code that give incentives to real estate developers to use leverage and debt for all new developments on currently undeveloped land. We must re-imagine whole industries that exist only to facilitate unlimited economic growth. And we must dismantle the social acceptance of the idea that economic growth is the same thing as human development – it is not.
We’ve reached a turning point in human history. It is the point at which humanity must collectively say with gratitude: “We have enough.” We are large enough, we have consumed enough, and we have grown enough. It is the point at which we begin to see our economy not as an engine of consumption but as a system of abundance. It is the point at which we no longer wish to be merely bigger, but better. It is the point at which we no longer see growth as our religion but rather we accept a religion of gratitude for the many blessings we already have.
And we must demand that our elected leaders begin the process of implementing elements of sustainability in every corner of our society - in local government, naturally, but more importantly at the state, federal and international levels where the scale of sustainable reforms will matter most.
This is the challenge of our generation, and the process must start now.