On Earth Day, Let’s Actually Protect Our Planet – By Investing in It
Each year, Earth Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the natural world and the benefits it confers to humanity. Conservation and preservation typically dominate the conversation. Well-meaning, these can unwittingly create a narrative that we can only protect wild spaces by keeping humans out; and we wonder why this doesn’t inspire sufficient action to address our pressing environmental challenges.
This year’s Earth Day theme – “Invest in our Planet” – is different.
We view it as an invitation to take an active role in shaping our planet. It offers economic solutions to our environmental problems, and we put a blue lens on that approach by focusing on our oceans.
According to Nerd Wallet, sustainable investing “considers a company or investment’s impact on the environment and society in addition to financial returns.” That’s a shift from the mandate of traditional investing that places profit first and supreme.
From the environmentalists’ point of view, investing in our planet financially means championing solutions that bring a financial return while helping solve (insert big, scary environmental challenge like biodiversity loss, climate change, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, etc.). It’s understanding that eco-actions don’t have to be altruistic – that humans and the planet can and should thrive, together.
In fact, by aligning monetary green with planetary blue and green, we incentivize the right kinds of mindset shifts, innovations and actions. Used appropriately, finance can act as a catalyst and lever for necessary ocean and climate action.
Of course, investment can also come in time or resources (think participating in beach clean-ups, citizen science, etc.) in addition to finances. Regardless, all of these two-handed approaches position humans as part of the solution – by virtue of their participation. It gives us the power and agency to create, steward and fund the future we want to see.
There is much that can be done. We’d like to spotlight opportunities within the traditional definition of investing: financing projects that help our planet. Sustainable investing comes in many flavors. These include green investing, blue bonds, impact investing, ESG investing, socially-responsible funds and more. At Investable Oceans, we focus on innovating and investing within the Blue Economy and, specifically, at the ocean-climate nexus. We believe this is the critical path forward for our planet and ourselves.
Despite making up more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, the oceans have historically been often overlooked when it comes to climate solutions. To be sure, planting trees, electrifying cars, decarbonizing grids and other “above the surface” actions are crucial. They’re also highly visible – making them the logical “low-hanging fruit” in the fight against climate change.
However, we won’t solve the climate crisis without engaging with the oceans. In fact, the oceans are as important to the climate as the atmosphere, The Economist reported. According to the World Bank, as the largest heat and carbon sink on the planet, the oceans have staved off the worst effects of our obsession with fossil fuels; unfortunately, we’ve maxed out their capacity to keep protecting us, and we aren’t changing our ways.
In a similar vein, we ocean lovers can’t protect marine ecosystems without curbing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. Heat and excessive atmospheric carbon consistently rank amongst the ocean’s biggest challenges, leading to everything from sea star wasting disease to mass coral bleaching to manatee die-offs.
Rather than lose hope, we’re working to accelerate blue investments for the planet in powerful and meaningful ways. What does this look like? It might be training Maine’s lobster farmers to farm kelp in their offseason as a means of diversifying their businesses and growing good food that fights climate change. It could mean facilitating increasing investments in renewable energy sources like wave energy that create jobs while satisfying our increasing energy needs. Or, it could mean creating financial mechanisms that foster and support the mainstreaming of environmental solutions, like the use of tradable tokens to encourage the decarbonization of traditionally-polluting industries like shipping.
While it’s true that all the answers don’t lie within our oceans, they remain integral players in the fight to save our planet – and therefore ourselves. This is the opportune moment. Funding ocean-climate action is critical to keep the planet liveable and enjoyable for future generations. So, on Earth Day 2023, as we shift our mindset around conservation and business to bring them together on the same team, we celebrate ocean investing as good business for people and planet. Let’s take this approach mainstream and keep it going well beyond April 22nd. We’re eager and ready, and we hope you’ll dive in with us.