Let’s Treat The Environment As If We Were Mother Nature’s Trust Fund Babies.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be a trust fund baby? I’m definitely not in that category, but I was trying to think of what their wealth managers tell them. I came up with four principles off the top of my head: Spend, Invest, Save, and Spread.

Spend:

Firstly, I imagine they tell them to put aside some money to spend with which to enjoy themselves…well why not splurge occasionally, right?

Invest:

However, I think they also tell them to invest a portion into various markets and assets to diversify their wealth and ensure that it is not at risk from any one particular downturn. This also ensures that you have an indefinite stream of money coming in — those trust funds don’t last forever, you know! That seems sensible to me so far — spend a bit, invest a bit.

Save:

Thirdly, where do you think those trust funds came from in the first place? From previous generations, of course. Moreover, maybe there are also some family heirlooms that are irreplaceable. So I also think wealth managers tell clients to consider their (future) children and to save a fair sum for them to enjoy — just as they were treated, themselves — and to not sell the invaluable trinkets.

Spread:

Lastly, I reckon wealth managers advise those luckily enough, to spread their wealth and create a social benefit. After all, they gained their wealth through the accident of birth. Perhaps they could set up a foundation, non-profit, or scholarship to create opportunities for those less fortunate.

Where am I going with this?

Just as a stock of money is financial capital, we have something called Natural Capital — the stock of natural resources, i.e. the mountains, forests, seas, wetlands, earth, and atmosphere etc.

I think we should follow these four guidelines (spend, invest, save, and spread) for the environment, too.

Spending the environment:

There’s no denying it, we need to use natural resources to function as humans. Whether those resources are renewable (e.g. trees) or non-renewable (e.g. oil) we need to use them in order to survive. But here’s the thing, we can’t treat all resources as if they’re never going to run out; we need to be thrifty in what we take, when we take it, and where we take it from.

Investing in the environment:

Treating natural resources as if they are infinite or immediately replenished is unsustainable. Even renewable resources like fish or forests take time to recover after being harvested. Therefore, we need to invest in various forms of natural capital to replace where we have taken from, so as to ensure we retain a steady stream of benefits in the future. For example, where we have taken renewable resources, such as fish, we should invest in supporting the habitat on which they survive. If we take non-renewable resources, like coal or oil, we should invest in alternate forms of clean energy, such as solar or wind.

Saving the environment:

Just like family heirlooms, there are some Natural Capital elements that should never be exploited, sold, built upon, or harvested etc. Perhaps there are cultural, spiritual, or artistic reasons they have been untouched, but these invaluable natural assets have been left for us to enjoy, and we should do the same for future generations. No selling grandpapa’s watch to feed your gambling habit!

Spread environmental wealth:

Lastly, through the accident of birth, we may be lucky enough to have the luxury of enjoying the environment for mere pleasure purposes. There are others who are not so lucky. Perhaps their city lights have blocked out the beauty of the night sky, or perhaps they have to exploit their local resources just to feed their family. Our actions at home impact those around the world. We should think of how we can not only reduce those impacts in our daily routine, but ensure that nature is in a healthy and stable condition for those who do rely on it for their daily bread.

Essentially, Mother Nature has given us one giant trust fund…and we are her trust fund babies. Currently, we are not spending our inheritance very wisely — we are running down 5th Avenue in our high heels purchasing everything in our sights, not investing wisely, and certainly not leaving enough for others around the world or future generations to benefit from.

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