A major blackout hit Puerto Rico’s most populated region last week, deepening the recovery crisis that has plagued the U.S. Commonwealth since Hurricane Maria hit almost two months ago.
As Maria — as well as recent disasters in Houston, Florida and northern California — have reminded us, nature is a very fickle, but also dependable force. As human beings we largely reap what we sow. Over the past 200 years, we have invested the world’s financial resources into production processes and energy sources that have caused disruption to the planet. Scientific consensus is that this has led to the intensification of natural disasters globally.
To try and addressed the damage we have caused, philanthropy has emerged as a counterforce to climate change. As Americans, we gave away $11 billion in 2016 to environmental and animal welfare organizations. This is fantastic, but it’s truly pocket change compared to the $40 trillion that circulates in the global economy every day — not to mention the close to $5 trillion represented by the market cap of publicly held fossil fuel companies. If we care about the future of our planet and want to break out of this David and Goliath fight — where philanthropy is trying to clean up the messes that the global economy has caused — we need to fundamentally change the economy, starting with the way that we invest.
How do we do this? Over the past decade, the practice of impact investment — investing dollars in a way that’s aligned with the social and environmental future we’d like to see — has become increasingly accessible. Major investors such as pension funds, endowments and foundations, are investing in innovations from wind energy to worker-owned cooperatives. And every day people are choosing to break up with their bank and seek out the local credit union or environmental bank that better reflects their values. They can also hold institutions accountable that are investing on their behalf — from that perspective we all have billions of dollars of economic influence to address climate change and just need to take advantage of that incredible opportunity to influence positive change.