After cooking breakfast at a homeless shelter recently, I left knowing what I hoped for those women and men: good shoes, dental care, and a warm, dry place to sleep that night. After talking to a client about her pending retirement, I hung up the phone knowing what I hoped for her: a sense of satisfaction with her well-done work and a sense of adventure for her years ahead.
But in late November as I was leaving the village of Ma, in rural Southeastern Haiti, I didn’t have a clue what to hope for its people.
By “rural,” I mean really rural. Our two-hour drive from Jacmel up (pretty much straight up) drought-parched, rutted, rocky roads ended at a small group of houses and businesses, where our 11-person travel group from Faith and Money Network was met by a gracious group of people from Ma who had walked to meet us. They mercifully carried our luggage up (again, “up” means seriously up) a loose-rock path that took us to the village, where each of us was greeted with a fresh coconut to restore our energy and celebrate our arrival.
What a stunningly beautiful place. My home in Kentucky is also gorgeous—rolling hills, wide rivers, and the world’s largest cave systems—but it is an ancient, quiet beauty. Southern Haiti is more dramatic. Layers of mountains ripple up and down between coasts on the sparkling, turquoise Caribbean Sea. It’s the quintessential postcard image.
I’m not much of a football fan, but around playoff time I perk up and start rooting for underdog teams to dethrone the champs. With all the problems that Big Energy has been having lately, the odds of upsets in the energy games have been steadily increasing.
Japan is on everyone’s mind. Despite the shocking destruction caused by the massive quake/tsunami, our attention has been on the radiation leaking from Fukushima Daiichi. We’re all praying the damage to the environment and human health can be contained, but it’s too early to know. This event has made it impossible to ignore the consequences of nuclear accidents, and has already had in impact on the future of nuclear energy.
Socially responsible investors have long had this on their radar. In our 1992 book Investing from the Heart, Jack Brill wrote that “most SRI investments are screened for nuclear energy. The reasons are not exclusively environmental, because nuclear power plants have also proven to be financial black holes for the utilities that built them.” Twenty years later nuclear is still a standard negative screen for SRI funds, though recently some former opponents of nuclear power have become converts. Nuclear plants do not emit CO2, so many people who are deeply concerned about global warming have reluctantly embraced nukes as a necessary path towards stabilizing the climate.
NI continues to recommend avoiding investments in nuclear power. Accident safety hasn’t been adequately addressed, and the lack of safe, permanent solutions for radioactive waste has been a deal killer for us. I’ve always felt it was a wacky way to boil water, but I’ve tried to keep an open mind. President Obama surprised progressives with his vision of a new generation of smaller, safer nuclear plants. Still, private investors have been unwilling to invest in nuclear power, despite huge government subsidies and limitations on liability for accidents.
If nuclear power is eliminated from our near-term future, how exactly will we meet energy demands without cooking the planet?
By Hal Brill This article first appeared in the March 2009 edition of the Natural Investing newsletter
Greetings from Patagonia! Allison and I are exploring the southern tip of the Americas, learning about the many cultures and exploring beautiful but endangered natural wonders. This year marks my 20th as an investment advisor (and I’ve got the grey hair to prove it!), so it seemed like a good time to get back to my roots and reconnect with the inspiration that launched me on this path. I majored in Cultural Geography in college because of my curiosity about the world, which fed my passion for making a difference. Now, thanks to the Internet, I’m able to travel again and keep up with business. I’m carrying a little net book computer and you wouldn’t believe some of the places I’ve hooked up to wi-fi!
One reason to come all the way to southern Patagonia is to experience how global warming is affecting the planet—the impacts are more evident closer to the poles. On our first day we visited a penguin colony on an island in the Straights of Magellan. Very cute, and they seem to be thriving. Next, we went on a boat ride up a beautiful fjord to our first glacier. This is where you really see the changes. Our guides showed us old photos of the glacier – the loss of ice is staggering. Glaciers that used to extend to the sea now cling to the peaks. This week a new scientific report came out saying that sea levels will rise more than previously thought— about 5 feet—because of shrinking glaciers and melting ice fields. So any-one considering investing in ocean-front property might want to reconsider!