Trendline Not Headlines
The Long View Provides a Better Outlook
There is no question that the political world is wildly turbulent these days. If you are like me, you may often fall prey to the depressing news coming out of Washington, D.C. Every day it seems like some environmental regulation is being rolled back, the government is oppressing a new group, or that we are on the brink of a budgetary crisis. All of this is before we even talk about global warming. So what is a progressive investor to do?
I was recently reminded of a line that President Bill Clinton likes to use, which is to look at “trendline not headlines.” In today’s world, there couldn’t be better advice. In the age of clickbait headlines, social media frenzy, and scary sound bite news, this can be hard to keep in mind—but the trendline does tell a more accurate story.
So let’s take a dive into some trend lines and see what is actually happening.
On the environmental front:
• Renewable energy is on the rise. More than one million homes now have solar panels and this number increases with each passing month.
• Emissions are being cut dramatically. California announced in January that it will cut emissions by 40% by 2030. Maryland is on track to have 25% of its energy produced from renewable sources (Washington Post, 2016).
• More than forty cities from the liberal Boulder, Colorado, to the more conservative Columbia, South Carolina, have committed to going 100% renewable energy (Sierra Club).
• Over 240 cities have signed onto the Paris climate agreement.
• Electric and hybrid cars are replacing gas-only vehicles at a rapid clip. More manufacturers are making the switch, including Volkswagen, which just announced it will offer an electric model of all their cars. Additionally GM’s head of product recently proclaimed: “The future is all electric” and announced that by 2023 the company will have more than twenty all-electric options.
• In 2016 alone, the number of electric cars in the world doubled (Fortune, 2017).
On the social and economic fronts:
•In 1950, only 36% of the world population was literate. By 2014 that number had grown to 84%. A more literate society means we can more easily share ideas, goals, and dreams. It is also key indicator of poverty reduction.
• In 1950, 55% of the world’s people lived in extreme poverty. By 2010 that number dipped 20% (Our World in Data, 2017) and continues to fall.
• From 1994 to 2016, the number of homeless individuals in the United States dropped 15%; this period includes the 2008 economic crash (Our World in Data, 2017).
On the investing front:
• Socially responsible and impact investing continues to grow at a rapid rate (USSIF, 2016). This means that money is flowing out of traditional investments and into companies that care about people and the environment. There is now more money available to startups seeking to solve some of the world’s problems rather than pursuing short-term profit at the expense of long-term stability.
• Today, one out of every five dollars invested uses some level of socially responsible investment strategy.
• Community investing, in which Natural Investments is a leader, has skyrocketed. In 2001, $7 billion was invested in community investments. By last year, that number had grown to $121 billion. This means more loans to low-income people to stay in their homes, for women to launch business, etc.
Is our news wonderful and upbeat? No. Is there room to improve and continue pushing the envelope? Always. However, it’s important to provide context and look at the trend lines of where we are going. Despite this administration’s efforts to undo progress on many fronts, the big picture reveals several indications that we are working to create a better world—and your investments are helping to drive this change. And here’s the good news: we know our tactics are making an impact. It may not be as speedy as
we’d like, and it may seem absurd that we still have to fight some of the battles we are waging today. But the data shows that in the big picture we are moving in the right direction.