Posts Tagged ‘tangible assets’

Greening in the red zone: resilience in broken places

Looking for some hopeful, practical stories of personal and community resilience?  Check out Greening in the Red Zone, which compiles inspiring stories of regenerative commitment from parts of the world where things have fallen apart, ranging from Syrian war zones to tornado-wracked towns in the midwest.

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How our tangible assets reveal who we are

Resilient investing focuses on more than just money, by expanding our assets “under management” to include both the tangible and personal.  It’s easy to see how our homes and land are investments in the tangible, but the idea goes further than that: we want you to give real consideration to what tangible “things” are important to you, and why, so that you’ll actively choose to grow these assets in ways that nourish your personal and our collective resiliency.  An Atlantic article entitled For the Love of Stuff fleshed out some themes we found interesting.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about what he calls “instrumental materialism,” a deeper impulse than the simple craving of objects. “Things embody goals, make skills manifest, and shape the identities of their users,” he and his coauthor write in The Meaning of Things. “Man is not only homo sapiens … he is also homo faber, the maker and user of objects, his self to a large extent a reflection of things with which he interacts.”  Dr. Russell Belk explores a related idea, the “extended self,” and observes, “It seems an inescapable fact of modern life that we learn, define, and remind ourselves of who we are by our possessions.”  Interestingly, Csikszentmihalyi found that rather than serving as a poor substitute for human connection, objects can amplify those connections, noting that “people who said they didn’t have any special objects turned out not to have any special relationships either.”

A resilient investor’s tangible assets go beyond just those they own, to include the ways they shop and care for—or invest some financial assets in restoration of— farmland and natural habitat. But the role of objects in our life is also part of it; for some delightful glimpses of this, check out the Tumblr The Burning House, which gathers photos of the things that its contributors would grab in the event of a fire.  The photo at the top of this post is from Märta in Stockholm, and it’s a clear window into her life and priorities.  May we all take the time to honor the tangible in our lives!



Good grief, now we’re importing/exporting FARMLAND (?!?)

With farmland and fresh water becoming increasingly scarce and valuable resources, there is an increasingly active market in buying and selling farmland across national borders.  I suppose we’ve been trading bits of earth this way for centuries (in the form of minerals, food, etc.), but it was still a shock to see this extending to encompass actual soil, hills, and watersheds.  This illustration, from an illuminating Vox “explainer,” is captioned “The color of the node shows to what extent a country is an importer (gray) or an exporter of land (red), and the size of the node represents the number of trading partners.”

Beyond the cognitive dissonance of the mere existence of “importing land” there are, of course, several deeper concerns; the most fundamental is the practice of new landowners shifting from food production for local farmers and their neighbors, shipping the fruits of the land into global supply chains instead (in particular, China is buying up lots of farmland to provide for its population’s needs).  Compounding this is local powerbrokers muscling their poorer citizens off the land so that it can be sold.  An ambiguous overlay a tendency to focus on how the new, distant owners may increase efficiency or otherwise increase the productivity of the land; again, such improvements may or may not serve local people and ecosystems, even if they appear beneficial for the global food production.

This wasn’t new to us, thanks to an article by our colleague James Frazier in the Natural Investment News last year.  As he stressed:

About half of all US farmland is expected to change hands within the next twenty years. Consider how the ability of a new generation of young farmers to acquire and finance farmland stacks up against the ability of large institutions to top any bid and pay cash for the best properties, and you can understand how big of a deal this really is, potentially for decades to come. To top it off, the new institutional owners are apparently quite savvy about what to grow, selecting the most profitable crops to meet growing demand for meat, nuts, and other gourmet foods in emerging Asian markets, presumably leaving the more risky, lower margin crops to small farmers. Fortunately, responsible investors have the means to make their own positive impact on American farming.

Click through to his article to learn more; and of course the Resilient Investing Map focuses on this problem (and opportunity!) within the “tangible assets” realm in Zones 4 and 6, and as an evolutionary approach to financial assets in Zone 9.

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Cheap rooftop solar freaks out utilities: slowing the roll-out to avoid a “utility death spiral”

A recent article in the NYTimes looked at tensions in Hawaii’s utility market over the rapid expansion of residential rooftop solar.  Ratepayers are increasingly recognizing that the financial equation has shifted so that buying or leasing rooftop solar panels can be cheaper than their current electric bill.  For utilities, this leads to financial pressures of a different kind: they still need to maintain their distribution lines and assure they can deliver power at night when the panels are not generating energy.  This has led many utilities to resist solar expansion by slowing the grid-connection process and reducing the price they pay for excess customer-generated solar power, which has frustrated solar advocates and homeowners looking to add solar.

“Hawaii’s case is not isolated,” said Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the smart grid program at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical association. “When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there’s going to be problems.”

This is a topic that has been on our radar for quite some time.  Last year, the Rocky Mountain Institute took a look at the longer-term pressures in this sector, and its report, The Economics of Grid Defection, predicted that Hawaii and California will be at the forefront of the next shift as well, when battery technology advances to the point where unplugging completely from the grid will become financially beneficial, leaving utilities even more adrift.  Click through to read “Utility death spirals and the future of energy,” our recent Natural Investments newsletter article on this creatively-disruptive possibility.

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Book interview at the Sustainability Unconference in Honolulu, February 2015

Scott Cooney of Important Media and producer of the Sustainability Unconference in Honolulu wrote a nice Triple Pundit piece about the book and conducted this on-site interview with Michael:

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Institute for Local Self-Reliance

For decades, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has championed just that. It focuses on local control and reliance particularly in the areas of broadband, energy, independent businesses, banking, waste (to wealth), and the public good. Each of these areas contains a deep database of articles, relevant rules and resources. Its website has numerous audio, video and written resources. Noteworthy is a searchable database of local, state and federal laws in areas of interest to local self reliance, such as composting, anti-privitization, beverage containers, etc. Visit website.

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Richard Heinberg: Beyond “peak everything”

It’s always a dicey proposition to tuck any of our key “thought leaders” into any one D-Type cubbyhole, perhaps none more so than Richard Heinberg.  We’ve included him among the Doomers thanks to his longtime leadership on the issue of Peak Oil, and more recently, the “peak everything” challenges that face an economy predicated on constant growth within an inherently limited biosphere.  So, we suggest reading and listening to Heinberg as a clear voice that sees our current system being likely to hit some extremely rough patches; but bear in mind that in his role as a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, he is also hard at work charting the path toward a viable, if much less energy-intensive, global future; in this, he could easily be considered a Dealer or Driver.
Good quick bio of Heinberg, along with links to his most recent writings on Resilience.orgRichard Heinberg’s website

Video: The Party’s Over
In this 5-part presentation, Heinberg addresses how peak oil, and thus required shift away from fossil fuels, is impacting our economy and our life.

Video: Peak Everything
In this 5-part video, Heinberg looks ahead at this century of declining resources.

Essay: Two Realities.
In this essay from his newsletter, Heinberg looks at the conflict between the physical and political realities of our planet, on which infinite growth is not possible, and our political and economic systems, which require endless growth. He warns that our only hope to minimize future human suffering and ecosystem collapse is to come to terms with the physical limits that political realities attempt to deny, ignore, or hide.

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A Wide Variety of Consumer Guides from EWG

Environmental Working Guide has done its homework in producing practical, helpful consumer guides that research and rate numerous everyday items, including beauty products, hair/teeth/skincare, sunscreen, baby products, seafood, lighting, etc. These searchable databases include a wealth of information to help people purchase or use healthier products and foods and avoid the same with unhealthy or even toxic ingredients. See guides.

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