Posts Tagged ‘personal assets’

Great collection of green burial info

Ah, good old Grist.  Too often lost in the modern online cacophony, I’m always grateful for the bits of their work that float to the surface of my info-stream.  This one tackles an asset that totally blurs the tangible/personal line, your own body.  Resilient investing tend to lump most of the body-related stuff into the “personal assets” row: health, career, learning.  But once we die, well, our body gets pretty darn tangible for our loved ones, and this Grist piece, Find out how you can reduce your footprint even after you’ve kicked the bucket, is a great primer on what to do—and what not to do—with your tangible remains.  As they set the stage:

As the sole species responsible for filling the oceans with plastic, pumping the atmosphere full of pollution, clear cutting the world’s forests, and bringing about what could be the sixth great mass extinction, it’s perhaps fitting that when we die, we turn our own corpses into toxic flesh bags that ensure ecological damage for years and years to come. It’s as if someone dared us to come up with the most environmentally harmful burial practices imaginable, and we dutifully complied, stopping just short of strapping vials of radioactive waste to our chests on our way to the grave.

Okay, you got my attention!  So what are my options?  Well, for starters,

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The latest in coming to grips with the Anthropecene

This is a one-two punch I couldn’t resist: one of my top-5 journalists recommending a powerful new essay by my favorite “recent discovery” in earth-connected literature.  Even better, Andrew Revkin and Robert Macfarlane are both riffing on one of the juicier umbrella topics for thinking about our rapidly-changing world: the Anthropocene, or the idea that the human mark on the planet is likely to take its place as the latest geological epoch.

Both Revkin and Macfarlane set out to point our attention to the best of the recent writing on this key topic. Revkin, in large part, welcomes Macfarlane’s recent piece as a chance to take a break from his regular dips into the recent literature, but he adds a few of his own recent faves at the end of his column.  By contrast, Macfarlane’s extended essay in The Guardian presents a rich and complex introduction to the topic.  You couldn’t find a better starting point (just as you couldn’t find a better deep-dive for learning about the field than those regular dips collected on Revkin’s site).  Here’s a first taste, then click through for more excerpts:

There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through. Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Conservationists, environmentalists, policymakers, artists, activists, writers, historians, political and cultural theorists, as well as scientists and social scientists in many specialisms, are all responding to its implications.

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Planetary futurecraft: the time is now

We’ve long highlighted the dearth of novels and films about how humanity might marshall our ingenuity and societal focus to get from here to a better/wiser/saner future.  Most of the stories about the future seem to be set in post-breakdown dystopias or seriously degraded, “muddle-down” worlds.  And the few “breakthrough” tales, like Star Trek, offer no sense of how the transition occurred.

One of our favorite next-gen futurists, Alex Steffen, is aiming to do something about that.  He’s not shifting gears and becoming a novelist—that could be great!—but he is gearing up to weave together a story that points the way forward.  At a time when every year of delay ups the ante on our game of chance with the climate, and during a season in which the US political world is being shaken from all sides, he reminds us:

When we can imagine no future we want, something far more dangerous takes its place in our minds: the future we fear. Without visions of progress worth coming together to fight for, crisis tears people apart. That’s no accident, either. Divide and rule. Where there is no vision, people are easy prey. … You’d think that this would be when the Very Serious People who’ve been running our countries, corporations and culture would step up and counter that fear-mongering with leadership and vision. You’d be wrong.

They can’t lead us because every good future is now a heroic one, and they’re not heroes. They’re managers and accountants and gatekeepers, (telling) us that all we can do is take small steps, support slow transitions, gradual improvements, incremental policy gains.

If you know Steffen at all, you know he won’t settle for that!  Alex cut his teeth running Worldchanging, the crowd-sourced, solutions-oriented compendium that was a new-millenium grandchild of the venerable Whole Earth Catalog.  He then moved on to write Carbon Zero, a look at what it will take to decarbonize our cities, along with a series of powerful clarion calls for change, including a profoundly thoughtful 50-year vision, Putting the Future Back in the Room, and a recent “here’s how we did it” talk framed as recollections from 2115.

Now he’s putting that same energy, and all he learned along the way, into a project he’s calling

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On micro-ambition: a bit of Zone 3 for a Tuesday morning

While much of what we share here features innovative community initiatives or leading-edge financial world developments, it’s important to remember the foundational role of the top row of the Resilient Investing Map, your Personal Assets.  And up there, most of our energy goes into Zone 1 (family, health, relationships) and Zone 2 (work and lifestyle).  So here’s a little nudge to keep some juice flowing in your Zone 3  as well (personal/spiritual growth, learning, inspiration).

This recent essay from James Shelley is the sort of thing that can be worth a few minutes of your time; we recommend that you find a few channels of inspiration and insight that you can turn to on a regular basis, ones that take you out of your normal areas of expertise and personal or career focus, and offer the chance to think anew about how you’re shaping your life.

Here, Shelley fleshes out a concept dubbed micro-ambition, a “passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals:”

To be ‘micro-ambitious’ means embracing the present opportunity — whatever it is — and making of it everything you can. After all, just as the present is a coalescence of your past so far, rest assured that the next thing will be built on the foundations you lay today. So build well. Go ‘all-in’ on whatever opportunity you have now. ….

The next opportunity worthy of your attention will probably show up in your peripheral vision, some unpredictable consequence of having “put your head down” to invest your best effort in the present enterprise. Micro-ambition is all about focusing on projects… not crossing some imaginary, arbitrarily defined ‘finish line’ in the future.

Being dedicated evolutionaries, we like this nugget: “Micro-ambition assumes from the outset that continual learning and self-reinvention are par for the course.”  He goes on:

Regardless of where your paycheque comes from, do you think of life as a racetrack or a labyrinth? Are your current projects a means to an end, or a chapter in a twisting, unpredictable plot? In reality, of course, these are not absolute dichotomies. (There are plenty of careerists who leverage their position to create incredible opportunities and plenty of freelancers who fret over the legacy of their careers.) This is ultimately a question of attitude. How do you approach the present?

This sort of reflection may seem like a distraction, or useless philosophizing, especially if it’s coming in from an angle that isn’t quite in your usual wheelhouse.  But making immediate practical use of new perspectives isn’t always the point.  The more important payback from time invested in stepping off your usual trail and taking in something unexpected is that making a habit of doing so will, over time, introduce some other pathways that you do find a deep resonance with, ones that continue to shape your life over time.  This is the delight and reward of your Zone 3 investments; they don’t all pay off, but the ones that do are especially valuable.

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Is your life ready for VUCA?

We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.  Are you poised to adjust nimbly to changing circumstances as they arise?  Because while we may not know quite how or when changes will crop up, it’s clear they’re coming—who foresaw oil prices dropping so precipitously, or US political polarization devolving so rapidly and dangerously?

A recent piece by Eric McNulty in Strategy+Business, Leading in an Increasingly VUCA World, offers the best concise overview of VUCA and how to respond that we’ve seen (well, other than in our book!).  McNulty stresses:

VUCA isn’t something to be solved; it simply is. Attempts to simplify complexity, or to break volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity down into smaller and smaller parts in hopes that each can be decoded and countered will not make them go away — there are too many elements beyond the control of traditional centers of power and authority. It is a network phenomenon and can’t be mastered through industrial age structures and practices.

We absolutely agree.  That’s why we formulated the integrated planning tools laid out in The Resilient Investor, centered on a “map” of our lives that provides a foundation for making clear and responsive choices within this VUCA landscape.  Personal and social resilience is enhanced when we cultivate all our assets (personal, tangible, financial), each of these engaging with our communities, the global financial system, and evolutionary initiatives that are making things better.

McNulty offers three tips for personal VUCA preparedness.  The first two will be familiar to our readers.

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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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Mindfulness tied to higher personal resilience

A new research paper has added resilience to the qualities that are enhanced in those who practice mindfulness—that is, maintaining a non-judgemental awareness of the present moment.  The concept has roots in Buddhism and meditation, though simpler forms of “mindfulness training,” stripped of most of Buddhism’s conceptual framework, have spread widely in recent years, aiming to harness the benefits of in-the-moment awareness in the workplace and in daily life.

In the study, recently summarized in Pacific Standard, participants’ personal resilience was measured via ten self-descriptive statements, including “able to adapt to change,” “can stay focused under pressure,” and are “not easily discouraged by failure.” The researchers concluded:

Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.

Consider this yet another nudge in the direction we encouraged in the “Qualities of the Resilient Investor” section of our book: maintaining some sort of centering practice is, for many, a key foundation for cultivating personal resilience. From Chapter 6, Be Ready for Anything:

Over the course of a life, some combination of counseling, spiritual practice, participation in men’s or women’s groups, membership in a church community, professional development programs that include an emotional/reflective element, and extended immersions in the natural world with like-minded friends will serve to deepen your self-awareness and help clarify all the choices that present themselves to you.

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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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Don’t look away now—time for climate mobilization

The UK newspaper The Guardian has been a leading voice on climate change for some time now.  As part of its Keep it  in the Ground campaign, they ran a series of excerpts from Naomi Klein’s most recent book, This Changes Everything.  This one popped up again recently in one of our social feeds, and it’s a solid reminder of the stakes, and the potential, that stand before us.  Here’s the rallying cry:

Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one. Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one. Sex discrimination wasn’t a crisis until feminism turned it into one. Apartheid wasn’t a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement turned it into one.

Klein goes on:

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Stories to show us the way: Cli-fi on the rise

As readers of The Resilient Investor will know, we are always on the lookout for stories and movies that can help us envision the many different possible futures that we need to be readying ourselves for.  So it was with some excitement that I followed a series of links on “cli-fi” after completing the post about how Margaret Atwood’s Everything Change essay can inform resilient investors’ life choices.  The term was familiar to me (“climate fiction,” a growing topic within sci-fi), and the first couple of books I’d happened upon in the genre had piqued my interest.  Now, after spending a half-hour of clicking through from Atwood’s original link, I’ve got a reading list, reviews, and even a syllabus if I want to really dive in.  This post will share enough to get you started, too.

Let’s start with a few words from Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the better-known authors in this field:

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Coming to terms with the Anthropocene

Once again, Andy Revkin has put together a fantastic in-depth post that can be enjoyed either as a quick overview of a complex topic or as the portal to digging into a wealth of primary sources.  This time he’s back on the question of the anthropocene—the posited new epoch in earth’s evolution that’s marked by the primary influence of humanity.  He presents what is perhaps the best point-counterpoint summary I’ve yet seen on the fundamental question underlying anthropocene thinking: can there be a “good” human age, or is this era inherently one of ecological and social decline? This really comes down to whether one has faith in humanity’s ability to forge a new balance with the earth’s natural systems.  And of course, the answer you carry forward will be a fundamental shaper of your overall world view and your approach to life and to resilient investing.

Revkin shares extended excerpts from two talks at a recent Breakthrough Institute Dialogue,

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