Sustainable Investing and Slow Money

SLow MoneyOnly two days after the Slow Money conference ended here in Santa Fe and the media is talking about it. What is different about Slow Money’s approach?

After attending the conference and gaining a deeper understanding of the organization’s goals I would have to say it is its sincere commitment to make a fundamental change in the relationship between the investor and the recipient of funding, and of course where that money is going. This is not investing merely for profit, nor typical philanthropy but a deep understanding of how essential it is that we make this shift in investing recognizing that we must take action as if  “farms, food and fertility matters”…because it does!

To learn more about Slow Money you can buy the book here from your nearest Independent book store or you can order online.

We can no longer view organic and sustainable agriculture as a luxury commodity, the stakes are far too high. This is not about creating high-end food for only those who can afford it. What is at stake is the environment, the future of independent farmers and in essence the future security of our food supply, not to mention the health implications.

While Big-Ag claims their work with genetically modified crops is the solution to climate change the facts show something far different. Without bio-diversity in crops we are in truth much more vulnerable to any changes in climate since we are creating a mono-culture of crops. If something goes wrong we are in big trouble since all of the crops are genetically the same. The beauty of bio-diversity is that if something changes in the environment (weather, pests etc) some of the crops may not survive but others will.

It is the same logic as diversifying one’s financial portfolio and perhaps this is one of the best explanations to inspire investors into this new and crucial area since most already understand the importance of diversification. There are many farmers out there wanting to make the change to more sustainable farming methods. There are many who would be thrilled to be able to get out from under Big-Ag’s control but need assistance in this transition.

This new capital is not just about the farmers, but all of the related businesses that are essential to make this work. There needs to be a new infrastructure to get the farmers products to the rest of us plus other businesses from restaurants to new food manufacturers using clean and sustainable ingredients. The beauty of this is that it will sustain itself once it is in place. The capital will continue to circulate within the system rather than move outside to large corporations who are solely concerned with profit. There will be a connection all along the way from where the seeds come from all the way to the consumer; a true partnership will exist where what is beneficial for one is beneficial for all.

One of the issues raised at the conference was what does this investment in the future look like? Is it in the form of grants, or loans or something totally new…a new paradigm of investment where the gain is more than financial.  It is time to consider the external costs or gains to the environment, people’s health and humanity as a whole that these larger choices impact.

We are entering a new era where we are taking back control of so many areas of our lives, from the health care we choose, the food we eat, to how we educate ourselves. This is new and exciting territory and one thing is for sure we need to act now. We do not have time to squander.

The environment needs our immediate attention as does our food supply, and the health issues that many face come at a huge cost to all of us. What we need to realize is how closely related all of these areas are…none exist in a vacuum and by starting with our food supply, and cleaning it up, we will be healing these other areas. With sustainable agriculture the environment is an integral partner to be nurtured and when our food choices are healthier, and we actually have more choices, health issues will clear up. “Four of the top ten causes of death today are chronic diseases with well established links to diet.”*  Not something insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies want, but this is the only direction that is sustainable, and that makes sense. It is obvious the current situation is not working the costs are far too high and I am talking about more than just money.

The answers may not all come quickly but the dialogue has begun and change is happening. See what you can do to be a part of this conversation. Sign on to the principles of Slow Money. What action can you take, or are you already taking, to invest in more sustainable future?

* Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food. New York: The Penguin Press. p.10.