Monday, September 22, 2014

Sea levels, along with economic incentives, are rising

This past weekend a reported 300,000 people took to the streets of New York City to call attention to the negative effects of climate change. Making the key changes and bringing the necessary resources to bear on this difficult challenge is not going to be easy, and will certainly take leadership across many sectors and segments of society. The announcement by members of the Rockefeller family this morning that they would have their major charitable foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, divest from fossil fuels is one example of the kind of leadership we need on this issue.

Regardless of their actual existing investments in fossil fuels, there is important symbolism in the family's decision that whatever profits they might realize as a result of this particular investment, the viability of the planet is more important. The fact that their family fortune is rooted in fossil fuels only adds to the merit of this decision. Of course this decision is not entirely altruistic. As Valerie Rockefeller Wayne says at the end of a piece in the Washington Post, if her ancestor were alive today, he would likely invest alternative fuel sources himself.

And there's nothing wrong with this - if there are ways to encourage both environmentally friendly practices at the same time as economic growth, I'm all for it.  In fact, there's every reason to think that as rising sea levels inch closer to swamping not just ports but major cities themselves, and drought and erratic weather damage crops and threaten infrastructure, more and more business and civic leaders will find it increasingly difficult to ignore the impact of climate change. Ultimately, it may be the economic factors that push us toward a comprehensive, lasting solution on this issue.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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