Ho boy. I have been thinking about this post for weeks now. Making figures, thinking about argument structure. Trying to ensure I’m avoiding any logical fallacies.
It’s not that I am never concerned about that at all in any of the other posts, but having environmental science as my field of study does often put me in the thick of it. Suffice to say that I have had a lot of time to think about these things in general for the past 5 years and more.
Before we dive right in, let’s do a little terminology update. At least in my neck of the woods, there is a lot less talk about global warming these days. That is because there has been a consensus among a lot of scientists to make a switch to the words climate change. It covers a larger range of effects, and is not as prone to ridicule with pointless statements such as “But it snowed in New York this winter!”.
That little detail aside, let’s dig right in.
In the personal finance world, we are fond of tables, figures and graphs to illustrate more complex concepts. Environmental science and science in general is much the same. Say it in graphics, if you can!
Now, I have seen a figure like this before, or a figure with a similar message. I am afraid that I cannot for the life of me remember where though, or how to find it. If anyone knows the original article where a matrix like this is mentioned, please let me know!
Very simplified, these are our options. Both as singular persons, families, organisations and governing bodies of various countries.
The crux of the matter is that doing nothing if climate change is real, has such devastating and negative consequences, that any other option is preferable.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about some frugal inspiration we can take from previous generations of WWII. Perhaps what I really should have been writing about was gardening, gardening and more gardening. If you had a spot of land, you were pretty much under obligation to grow some food, to ensure some supplies and a higher level of resilience, if rations ran out for a time.
If climate change is real, and we all do nothing, I think it would be a prime time to get back to that kind of self-sufficiency attitude. Luxury crops around the equator on which we have come dependant, like coffee and cocoa, are already suffering lower yields.
Will transport and cargo routes be as stable if heftier weather becomes more commonplace? Will we still be able to pick up apples from New Zealand and oranges from Spain at our local grocery shop? Fruit can by many measures be seen as a luxury, but cereal crops are not exempted, as we saw quite forcefully in Norway just this last summer when a large fraction of crops in the west simply rained away in one of the wettest summers in recent memory.
For me, getting interested in things like financial independence is largely a question of stability. I’ve felt the brute force roller coaster that comes with being at times employed and unemployed when you don’t have an adequate emergency fund. It is something I’d like to avoid, if I can.
To do so, I intend to build a stable life of very low expenses. With a paid off home and trying to grow most of our food. I fear to trust my investment dividends 100% because, well, I don’t believe if we do nothing and the climate gets really mad… Well, a world that might be struggling with food insecurity and rampant weather destroying homes on a regular basis, will probably not have the most stable investment climate either.
What if you go to your bank tomorrow and find… nothing, like Icelanders did in 2008? I don’t want to think about it, but it has already happened, and it can happen again.
Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about all these things. Maybe investments will soar to all new highs as new companies get rich on technologies that protect everyone from effects if we decide to do nothing? Maybe things will never get as bad as the models predict?
But because I don’t know, and my education has given me ample reason to believe in the models, I try to mitigate the risks as best I can.
Trust me when I say, I would much rather be proven wrong 100 times over and live in a stable and secure world where my savings do nothing but multiply for the rest of my life.
Such stability is historically rare though. We tend to forget, but it has only been 70 years since the last world war. Which is not to ignore that areas in the world that currently are war zones. I know the 4% rule survived even the world war, but what can I say? I’m an anxious investor.
That’s the big question, isn’t it? The cause for so much fear, anxiety and decision fatigue. The issues seem so large that it is easier to simply shut out the world and do nothing.
In my experience, if you try to do everything at once, you will quickly become overwhelmed, stressed and demotivated. So my advice to you is to not do that.
Instead start with small things. Actionable things that make you feel like you are contributing. Such as bringing your own bags to shop, choose an apple that isn’t wrapped in shrink wrap or how about adding more plants and less animal products to your diet? It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you should not berate yourself if you forget one day or stumble on the way. A lot of the time, the hardest thing is getting started. Once you do it is easier to gain momentum.
If you feel like you are ready to level up from small changes in your immediate area, you could try things like writing to local politicians, voting with your dollar (or non-voting by not spending on things you disagree with, which is also efficient in this commercial world we live in), joining and/or donating to causes and organisations you believe in.
In general, there is only one thing that makes politicians take a stance on anything, and that is overwhelming pressure from voters.
Do you have any incredible tips for engaging with friends, family and even politicians and legislators? We’d love to hear all about it, so please leave a comment!