Catching up on Bank of Nature
A summary intro for newcomers
In November 2021, we launched Bank of Nature as an environmental philosophy/design initiative and website to explore the role of a "proxy for nature" in the society and economy. We see it as a new way to grapple with human-accelerated climate change. Cofounded by me and financial theorist Tim MacDonald, our project invites inquiries, challenges, better ideas and transdisciplinary participation that enhances the offering and expands global inclusiveness as the project evolves.
Bank of Nature, a work of applied imagination, is supported by a generous fellowship from Arizona State University.
Among our big ideas, we argue that traditional government and industry are ill-equipped to manage the climate crisis, but that a peer like a proxy for nature could be built expressly for it.
As an example of that third door, Bank of Nature, sets itself up as a proxy for nature that would shake up a stuck status quo by diverting existing-but-untapped “really big money” directly toward climate solutions. Meanwhile, how dare we speak for nature!
Another big idea is scale. A proxy for nature is a peer/competitor/partner/safeguard against overreach by traditional government and industry. That means trillions, not millions in cash. We need to recalibrate and think much bigger. We need to rethink the role of money in the solution.
Acknowledging that thorny ideas like capitalism, money and growth-obsessed global economy will be preserved ahead of human survivability between now and a climate-change future means, we argue, adapting them for success. These systems are how we live in a modern society and they won’t be shamed out of existence, especially with time ticking, so let’s create a backstop against their misuse. Is nature a bank?
This gives us something specific to call for when we want to “take action!”
So, what the heck is fiduciary money and fiduciary finance? Let’s start with “It’s not as boring as it sounds!” So, give it a chance.
Friends of the project will need to get cozy with the terms “stewardship” and “intergenerational fiduciary duty” as existing ideas that put pensions, endowments, public trusts and other big money funds squarely in the climate debate — even if they are vividly silent. So far. We need to challenge the way they make money (specifically, their focus on gambling public trusts on Wall Street) and foster a new channel for fiduciaries to make two things happen: 1) earn a financial minimum to keep the funds vital, in perpetuity and 2) invest in a bright future, in perpetuity.
Currently, they do 1) but work actively against 2). Fiduciary Finance, where this big money ought to play, pivots on 1) and 2).
For example, pension funds have 75-year-windows of promises for new hires/future retirees. That ticks over everyday. In just a few years, they will be operating in the 22nd Century, 50 years after government and industry are supposed to have climate crisis figured out.
We can excite people with the idea of a work around to obstacles set up by traditional government and industry, but, frankly, the tough part is to create excitement about a new form of finance. Most of us, with good reason, are outside the intentionally mysterious black box of modern finance. Too complicated. Too risky. Too abstract.
The take away that is exciting is that there is big money, right now, that can pay for climate security, but doesn’t. That’s a place to focus attention. It’s a reason to think differently.
Personally, finance reform is not where I thought we would end up at the beginning of this project. However, I’ve been open to seeing where the Bank of Nature project, as a work of applied imagination, leads us without an expectation of outcome. Anything called Bank of Nature needs a model for moving money in and out so that nature gets its dividend/rent/overdue repayments like any lender, right? This is how. An open letter to fiduciaries.
The next big step is the forming of a professional group called “Fiduciaries for the Future.” It’s an opportunity for fiduciaries everywhere to expand their commitments to stewardship and fiduciary duty and to accept their role as heroes of climate security. Our inaugural meeting is Feb. 10, 2022. It’s free and on Zoom. Registration and details are here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/225452312937.
Join us for that. Connect with us here.