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Sustainable Economics

We have put our good mother through a lot over the past few million years. Ever since we walked out of the great rift the biospheres dominant species has really left a mark. I know that mark is but a tiny spec on the archaeological record of the earth which spans a few billion years but our impact is unmistakable.
 
I guess it started with the invention of hand tools, fire, wheels, shelter construction, water cultivation and agriculture. You can’t forget hunting in packs, weaponry, domestication of animals, speech, art and writing. A consciousness of a portfolio of skills, specialization, division of labor and the ability to discern exchange value within the community birthed a notion of governance. Our social nature was crowned with our ability to transmit craft and knowledge to successive generations, assuring continuity and cohesion with a common history and a well articulated cosmology. Put it all together and I think you got your basic modern Homo sapien.
Oh yeah, we also developed a psychology, an ego, that incorporates the primacy of ourselves and our selfish needs. It rationalizes and guides our interactions with nature, transforming the intention of our labor into a transaction that alters the conditions of the environment. It also serves as indisputable empirical evidence of the master species, elevated above all others as time marks the progress and dominion of the human race.
 
Our dominion has been codified into our sacred literature. Our creation stories and cosmic mission statements expressly state to exercise our dominion over nature, to propagate the species and to be fruitful and multiply. The screaming unencumbered id, left to its own devises, unchecked in the grand supermarket. We human’s have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations and the species continues to be fruitful and multiplying. 
 
We sojourn on, notching the ladder of history with marks of our progression through the ages. Along the way we Cro-Magnons expropriated the Neanderthals and moved into their Mediterranean digs complete with fire pits, burial chambers and the best take on modern art until Picasso came along.
 
I guess that’s the point. Our survival comes at the expense of other creatures and things. I’m no Malthusian, but Tom Friedman’s flat world is getting crowded.    And as we celebrate the 44th Earth Day a midst the greatest die off of species since mankind coronated himself as master and commander of all things earth; it may be time to consider how our dominion is hampering the well being of the lesser flora and fauna kingdoms and what we can do to begin the practice of a more sustainable economics.
 
When I look at Las Vegas, I behold a garish mecca of capitalism on steroids.  I’m overwhelmed by the banality of the the things we so highly esteem. A community venerated and propped up on the foundation of vice, hedonism and the radical pursuit of money. Unbridled development of a crystal neon city constructed in the middle of a desert, recklessly consumes water and energy resources and misdirects human capital to maintain the facade of an unsustainable economy. 
 
Phoenix poses the same paradox. Darling child of the credit boom, Phoenix is a city consuming itself. The rising threat of climate change, blistering heat, dwindling water supplies and raging haboobs would give any urban planner reason to pause. A bustling city of many millions of striving citizens consuming energy, water and human capital built on the unsustainable foundation of excessive consumption and an unrealistic valuation of the capital required to maintain it. 
 
The explosion of fracking natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation is another example of sacrificing long term sustainability for the immediacy of shareholder returns. The Marcellus Deposit has proven reserves that only last a decade. As evidenced by the hyper development occurring in North Dakota,  economies tied to resource extraction are prone to experience classic boom bust cycles. During boom times all is well. But the good times don’t last all that long and communities are left in the wake of the bust cycle to deal with the aftermath. 
 
The Keystone XL Pipeline and the rapid expansion of the LNG extraction industries are being touted as the foundation of American energy independence. But this energy resource extracts a high cost on the land and its natural bounty. It poses significant risk to water aquifers, air quality, wildlife and the storage of waste-water byproducts will present long term remediation challenges to communities for many decades after the last well is capped.
 
Our new found fortune of LNG comes with a significant opportunity cost to develop alternative energy sources as it continues to tether our economic dependence on a dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Perpetuating this dependence also requires us to expend huge sums of money on the military. The political arrhythmia in the Ukraine and the keen interest of the United States has much to do with the changing political economy of fossil fuels and the protection and accession of markets.
 
Sustainability requires a new approach to the emerging realities of the global political economy. Recognition that competing interests bring important capital to the table, and that all must be recognized and fully valued in the new algorithms of sustainability is the keystone and pipeline of sustainability. The practice of unfettered development is unsustainable. Regulation, arbitration and revitalization cannot be sacrificed at the altar of laissez-faire politics that only serves to widen the wealth gap at tremendous social cost. The politicization of economic policy cannot continue to be beholden to rampant monetization. Sustainability is the creation of long term value for a diverse community of stakeholders. It needs to become our guiding mantra as the global population approaches 8 billion souls. 

Happy Earth Day.

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Risk: fracking, political, water, air, war, opportunity cost, renewal clean energy, climate change

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April 23, 2014 Posted by | business continuity, commodities, compliance, economics, environment, military, political risk, politics, psychology, regulatory, risk management, social unrest | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prognostications and Expostulations for 2010

We’re going out on a limb with this one or given thats its winter we’ll say we’re walking on thin ice.   We’ll gaze into the crystal ball and pontificate on eleven  subject areas for 2010.  With some we hope we will be wrong.  With some we hope we will be right.

1.  Stock Market:  Buoyed by well managed earnings by the large multinational companies in the DOW, principally as a result of cost reduction initiatives and exposure to global markets the Index will finish up 6% and close at 11, 011 on the last trading day of 2010.   Given an inflation rate of 4% investors will realize a 2% gain on equity investments in DOW constituents.  S&P 500 and NASDAQ will be flat gaining 2% for the year.

2.  Iraq War:  The war in Iraq will continue to wind down.  America will scale down its military presence in the country.  Troop levels in the country will approximate 85,000 by the close of 2010.  Though direct American military involvement in conflicts will decline,  Iraq will experience civil unrest as Kurd nationalists, Shiite and Sunni Muslims seek to protect their political and economic interests.

3.  Afghanistan War:  The escalation of America’s military presence in Afghanistan will move the theater of war further into Pakistan.  The Taliban will be satisfied to harass US forces by engaging in a guerrilla war.   Taliban and Al-Qaeda supporters will use the opportunity to increase the level of urban terrorist attacks in the large cities of Pakistan.  Al-Qaeda confederates will seek to reestablish base of support in Somalia, Yemen and ties will begin to emerge in Latin American narco-terror states.

4. Iran: The political situation in Iran will continue to deteriorate.  This is a positive development for regional stability because it will force the ruling regime to cede its nuclear program development initiatives.  Iran will not be able to capitalize on the US draw down in Iraq.  It will become increasingly isolated as Hezbollah and Hamas pursue actions that are less confrontational to Israel in Palestine and Lebanon.   The ruling Caliphate position will weaken due to internal political dissent and external economic pressures.

5.  China:  It will be a year of ultra-nationalism in China.  Its stimulus program that is targeted to internal development will sustain a GDP growth rate of 8%.  China will use this opportunity to strengthen the ideological support of its citizens to fall in line with the national development initiative.  Globally China will continue to expand its interests in Africa and will cull deeper relationships with its Pacific Rim club member Latin America.  China will continue to use US preoccupation with its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and skirmishes in Yemen and Somalia as an opportunity to expand its global presence with a message of peace and cooperation.

5.  US Mid Term Elections:  Republicans will gain a number of seats in Congress.  The continued soft economic conditions, state and local government fiscal crisis, war weariness and cut back in services and rising expenses will make this a bad year for incumbents and the party in power, namely the democrats.  Sarah Palin will play a large role in supporting anti-government candidates drooling over the prospect of  winning a seat in government.

6.  Recession:  Though the recession may be officially over, high unemployment, home foreclosures and spiking interest rates will hamper a robust recovery.  The end of large government stimulus programs  and the continued decrease in real estate values also present strong headwinds to recovery.  We predict a GDP growth rate of 2% for the US economy.  Outsourcing will abate and a move to reintroduce SME manufacturing  will commence.

7.  Technology:  The new green technology will focus on the development of nuclear power plants.  The clash of the titan’s between Google’s Droid and Apple’s I Phone will dominate tech news during the year.  Lesser skirmishes  between Smart Phones makers or the war of the clones will continue to explode altering the home PC market and continue to change the market paradigm for old line firms like DELL, Microsoft and HP.   SaaS or cloud computing will gain on the back of lean business process initiatives and smart phone application development and processing infrastructure will encourage cottage industries fueling the cloud and making for some new millionaires.  The tension between the creators of content and search and delivery will begin to tilt back toward the content providers.  Litigation involving social networking sites will be filed to create safeguards against  its use  as a tool to control and manipulate behaviors thus threatening civil liberties and privacy rights.

8.  Culture:  The Googlization of civilization will allow individuals to embrace paternal corporatism as a pillar to add efficiency and order to their lives.  Multiculturalism will continue to grow in the US.  However a growing political backlash against it will become more of a prominent theme as Teabaggers agitate for a return to the true values of America.  Electronic arts will make major leaps and bounds as commodification continues to be a driving force in the world of art.  Printed words like books and newspapers will continue to dramatically decline.  Writing, drawing and playing musical instruments skills will  ebb as people prefer to develop digital skill sets.  Texting and Tweeting make for poor practice for extended compositions.

9.  Latin America:  Instability will grow in Latin America as narcodollars continue to undermine political stability in Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Panama.   The US will increasingly become involved in the conflicts between petro and narcodollars.  Mexico’s stability will be increasingly undermined by the power and corruptible influence of the drug trade.  China’s influence on the continent will grow.

10. European Union:  The EU will continue to manage itself for stability.  It will yearn to return to its aristocratic roots and will become increasingly conservative.  It will continue to have a complex relationship with the expanding Muslim community.  A call to deeper nationalism will arise out of a growing influence of Islam and the inefficiencies of EC bureaucrats in Belgium.  The EU will continue its union of expediency to counterbalance their distrust of Russia and their distaste for America.

11.  Environmental Justice:  Though awareness continues to grow concerning the need to mount and implement large scale solutions to halt the problem of global climate change;  the political will and resources required to drastically alter the planets current trajectory in growth of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels remains unaltered.  Social responsible enterprises, small businesses and individuals continue to make a difference.  Eco friendly small businesses, urban farming, capital formation initiatives around renewable  energy  businesses are hopeful signs of a market response to the pressing problem.  China is investing heavily in becoming a market leader out of business savvy and environmental necessity.  Until the great powers of the world can come to some  collective agreement on how to limit , cap or trade carbon credits we’ll have to be content to separate the trash and recycle, reuse and reduce.

You Tube Music Video: Donald Byrd, Stepping Into Tomorrow

Risk: unfulfilled predictions will make me look bad

January 5, 2010 Posted by | commerce, environment, manufacturing, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nike Resigns US Chamber of Commerce Board Seat

climate change wcNike has resigned from the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its opposition to the cap-and-trade bill now being considered by the Senate.   Nike moves comes on the heals of Exelon announcement to quit the Chamber altogether over its concern that the nations largest business lobby body was hindering legislative action to deal with the pressing problems of climate change.

As the December Copenhagen Summit on climate change nears pressure is growing on the United States to pass the cap-and-trade bill stalled in the senate. Companies with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility agenda are becoming more vocal in support of legislative and corporate initiatives that address climate change.

Nike’s high profile action places associations and business advocacy groups on notice that it expects such groups to seek ways they can make positive contibutions to addressing pressing issue of climate change.

Nike insists that it expects the representative bodies of businesses to have a little less conversation and demands much more action to address the pressing  problem.

You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, Little Less Conversation

Risk: climate change, legislative, corporate responsibility

October 4, 2009 Posted by | associations, environment, legislative, reputational risk, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Politicians Get Wind of Contaminated Drywall

chinese-drywall-inspection

As reported on this blog back in February, the problem of contaminated drywall residential home developers, suppliers  and construction companies imported from China for new home construction is growing and the issue is beginning to raise a stink in Washington.  Senators from a number of states are fuming about the extent of the problem.  The use of contaminated drywall in new home construction spans many states.  Florida in particular is reported to be severely effected by this product liability event.  It is estimated that contaminated drywall was installed in over 35,000 homes. Risk mitigation experts believe that it would cost approximately $100,000 per home to remove, dispose and replace  the drywall.  Developers, banks, construction companies and consumers still reeling from the recession and credit crisis would be hard pressed to meet that huge expense.

The problem of contaminated drywall has many dimensions.  It is a product liability issue, ecological hazard and has dramatic contagion capabilities that can effect financial solvency, community quality of life and international trade relations with China.  At its root, the issue of contaminated drywall is a dramatic example of the severity of  the consequences of a poorly managed supply chain.  See our post For the Want of a Nail: Lennar Homes.

The Biz Journal Article can be read here: Senators Outraged Over Chinese Drywall.

More information on Chinese drywall contamination from NACHI

May 29, 2009 Posted by | environment, manufacturing, product liability, recession, reputational risk, supply chain, sustainability | , , , | 1 Comment