We might be careful with our money, be generous in our giving and invest ethically. But do we fully understand the impact of our well-intentioned choices?
“Consider the birds of the air,” said Jesus. “They neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns ... do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:26-34). He also told the parable of the rich fool who imagined building bigger barns for his bumper harvest – and died that very night (Luke 12:13-21). Today, the relatively wealthy members of the world, which includes you and me, collectively hold around 100 trillion dollars in investments for the future. Jesus’ words challenge us to think hard about how we save. In today’s complex world, how might we begin to respond to his ideals?
The average Tablet reader probably spends carefully, gives some away, ponders and even undertakes ethical investment. But do we understand the effects of our well-intentioned choices? David Ko and Richard Busellato’s book The Unsustainable Truth [see page 8] might provoke thought. The world of investment is so vast and complex that even good intentions, especially when massively multiplied, can have terrible effects. The Californian wine industry, for example, supported by the pensions of schoolteachers, uses so much water for irrigation that the state’s groundwater is becoming toxic. Again, because land has become an investment opportunity, small farmers have been forced out of business, leaving farmland in the hands of polluting agribusiness. Even investments that look unquestionably “green” can be double-edged. A striking example is Tesla, which made so much money out of electric cars, and so suddenly, that it invested $1.5 billion
(£1.1 bn) in Bitcoin. Bitcoin not only takes as much energy as a medium-sized country to function, it is also a major funder of cyber attacks on businesses and individuals.