Posts Tagged ‘close to home strategy’

Deep retrofits offer wide-reaching returns

I have long advocated for deep energy retrofits; as we developed the resilient investing system, this became an obvious Zone 4 activity (tangible assets, close to home). “Remodel your house so that it uses dramatically less energy,” I’d proclaim, “It’ll be more comfortable, and you can save money and the planet at the same time!” Experts like McKinsey assured me that insulation and heating systems pay off very quickly. After two years of actually tackling it at our house, the practicalities are—surprise!—a bit more complicated.

When you take a closer look at an older house you don’t see just outdated insulation; you also see drafty windows (and possibly mold), and a

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Climate resilience can enhance social cohesion, reduce inequity

At a conference this summer, Building Climate Resilience for Equitable Communities, Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and the Budget, announced a slew of new White House climate resilience initiatives that are targeted to helping communities at risk and reduce the inequity that has become a major source of social instability.  He asked:

“Why are some children less likely to go to college, find good-paying jobs, and stay out of the criminal justice system? Why do those who have the least stand to lose the most when the storm comes through?”

Donovan went on to outline several programs that address these questions, through the lens of federal efforts to increase resilience in the face of climate challenges, including

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Super-efficient “passive house” design scales up to apartment buildings

Highly efficient, tight homes that stay cool in summer and warm in winter with little or no outside energy have been a “thing” in recent years.  However, the relatively large up-front investment left this breakthrough as yet another green lifestyle option for the well-heeled.  That’s rapidly changing, though, with the opening of large apartment complexes utilizing the German passivhaus approach to design.  Portland, Oregon’s smattering of high-end private “passive houses” have now been joined by the The Orchards, an affordable housing complex of 57 apartments:

“Every day I find a new reason to love it,” gushes Georgye Hamlin, whose one-bedroom apartment is as noiseless as a recording studio. “It’s cool, it’s quiet, and I don’t even hear the train. During the heat wave, my girlfriend came over to sleep because it was so cool. Yay for German engineering!”

Cornell University has broken ground on the world’s biggest passive building, a 350-unit apartment house in New York City, where Mayor Bill DeBlasio is laying out an urban vision built around this kind of building:

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Investors tapping into water as new “asset class”

A key to social resilience in the coming decades will be providing fair and reliable access to water.  And now is the time for resilient investors to consider how they feel about private companies taking the lead in making it so.  A recent NYT article introduces some of the key players in one of the leading edges of this hot-button topic, parched California:

“Water has been taken for granted, but reliable access is no longer guaranteed,” said Disque D. Deane Jr., a Wall Street veteran who runs Water Asset Management. “It will be seen as an asset class that will be allocated in portfolios like health care stocks or energy or real estate.”

The article does not touch on the most contentious issue, privatization of municipal water systems.  Instead, its focus is on desalination plants and delivering underground reserves in the Mojave to coastal cities.  Social and environmental considerations are likely to be deployed by both advocates and critics of projects like these; it’s bound to be another issue that splits the establishment green community (as have GMOs, nukes, and larger ideas like ecomodernism); so if you want to make an informed choice that reflects your own best thinking and deepest feeling, we recommend that you aim to become at least somewhat informed about the debate here.

For starters,

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Community-sourced capital: No-interest loans for local businesses

Two recent MBA graduates in Seattle are pioneering an exciting new approach to funding local businesses. They call it Community Sourced Capital, and they’ve already funneled about $1.5 million to dozens of small companies around the country.  Their innovation is that the investments are zero-interest loans; lenders expect to get their money back, but the “returns” are explicitly in the form of social benefits, ie, enhancing their local economy by helping to grow small businesses.  These are mostly modest projects (funding targets range from $5000-50,000), and 98% of the loans they’ve made so far are being repaid on time.  In the words of CSC Co-Founder Rachel Maxwell: “Money does not have to be about creating more money—it is a tool we can use to create the world we want.” You can learn more in an interview with the two co-founders published on

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Quality time is not enough: you need quantity time too!

Zone 1 on the resilient investing map is about how you build your Personal/Social assets within your Close to Home strategy.  It’s no coincidence that this is the first of our nine zones, for the investments you make here provide the strongest parts of the foundation from which the rest of your life will unfold.  Frank Bruni recently penned a short essay that’s one of the best pieces of Zone 1 advice we’ve heard in a while.  In just a few short paragraphs, Bruni reminds us that moments of deep sharing and lasting connection can’t be conjured up at will during moments set aside for “quality time.”  Rather, they occur suddenly and unpredictably.  His extended family spends a week together each summer; he used to cut his time there short, but learned that by doing so, he was missing out:

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Resiliency networks for smaller cities

In recent weeks, we’ve featured the work of several networks of cities and of mayors that are working together to tackle climate challenges locally.  But if you live in a smaller city (or aren’t a mayor), you may be interested in a couple of other organizations we just came across. Resilient Communities for America includes over 200 city and county councilmembers (and mayors) and offers free resources to help your community track emissions, plan for solar and resiliency, and more.  The larger ICLEI (launched in 1991 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives; now rebranded as Local Governments for Sustainability) has hundreds of members in 42 states, and over a thousand from around the world; dues for cities under 50,000 are just $600/year. Either or both of these networks could really help you jump-start local initiatives or take the next steps.

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Resilience AmeriCorps focuses on vulnerable communities

This summer, the Obama administration launched a new AmeriCorps program that dovetails perfectly with the local resiliency efforts that we’ve highlighted as part of the Close to Home resilient investing strategy.  Resilience AmeriCorps was formed “to assist vulnerable communities that lack the capacity to address climate-resilience planning and implementation.  The AmeriCorps VISTA members will increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas, and help those communities develop plans for becoming more resilient to any number of shocks and stresses, including better preparations for extreme weather events.”  Or, as funding partner The Rockefeller Foundation put it: to “support the development of resilience strategies to help communities better manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.”  Now that’s a punchy definition of resilience!

The focus on vulnerable lower income communities is especially encouraging, since many current grassroots efforts tend to involve generally better-off and already socially-engaged activists.  A White House overview of Resilience AmeriCorps stressed the importance of its social-justice priorities:

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Cities take action on climate in run-up to Paris talks

Not long ago, we featured a post that quickly summarized several global initiatives that are bringing cities together to develop effective local climate change programs.  Now, in the run-up to the Paris climate talks in November, these urban government efforts are accelerating.  In August, President Obama announced that 15 US cities had recently joined the Compact of Mayors, nearly doubling American participation, to 34 cities, and he challenged mayors across the country to bring that number up to 100 before Paris.  Meanwhile, 12 US mayors announced the Local Climate Leaders Circle; they will be delegates at the Paris COP21 talks, representing climate action at the municipal level, and Rio de Janeiro became the first city to meet the Compact of Mayors climate goals.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently penned a stirring article in Foreign Affairs that fleshed out why urban leaders have the incentive to take action where national governments are moving slowly:

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Cities lead the way on climate, resilience

Everywhere I turn lately, there’s another reminder that cities are central to our hopes for a more sustainable, resilient future.  The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group—a decade-old collaboration among 75 of the world’s largest cities that are home to over a half-billion people and a quarter of the global economy—is on the forefront of these efforts, as is the Compact of Mayors, involving 84 cities, many of them smaller or mid-sized. Both groups are gearing up to have a major presence at the upcoming Paris climate talks. The C40 has just released a new report, Powering Climate Action: Cities as Global Changemakers, which highlights the collaborative potential of cities working together: “The evidence shows that cities are taking action even where they have limited power, by collaborating with other cities and non-state actors and catalysing wider climate action in the private sector and civil society.”

NRDC’s OnEarth magazine recently produced an issue devoted to city-based climate action that is full of inspiring stories, including 

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What if it really is too late?

Much of what we share here is coverage of projects, research, and news that’s relatively encouraging—ideas and actions that might spur your own constructive engagement in these challenging times.  Recently, we’ve shared evolutionary/breakthrough techno-optimist visions, close-to-home/tangible in-the-dirt initiatives, and muddling-up/market-based optimism about carbon.  But hovering there in the background, as it has been with increasing intensity for at least a couple of decades, is the specter of questions that many of us can’t quite bear to face: Did we wait too long for any of this to make a real difference?  Is catastrophic climate change now baked into the system?  Have economic elites stubbornly steered the ship onto insurmountable shoals of social inequity and ecological overshoot? What if it really is too late?

Addressing this possibility has been among the hardest parts of putting together our book and this ongoing chronicle of resilient investing resources.  But we, too, have grappled with the darker questions, and have to some degree prepared ourselves, at least internally, for the possibility that we are indeed in the early stages of a significant societal and/or ecological decline.  None of the four of us who put the book together are ready to abandon ship,

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Small homesteads: a rich life now, ready for “what if”

Homesteads designed to increase self-suffiency are not just a throwback to the 60’s or a prepper fortification against total breakdown.  In today’s uncertain world, they are investments in personal and local resiliency that offer substantial returns in any future scenario.  And it doesn’t take much land to shift your family’s balance from total dependence on unsustainable (and potentially fragile) global food and energy systems, toward a much more rewarding and reliable balance of local, regional, and global supplies.  After a few years, you may even find yourself feeling a lot less nervous about the “what if” consequences of a major economic or environmental crisis that could disrupt your access to distant goods.

But where to start?  And why would you want to?  We recently came across a great introduction to these questions, in a profile of Melliodora, a 2-acre homestead in a rural village setting; click through for more details.

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