The world will continue to warm, and that increasing heat will affect humanity. How warm the planet will get is a question of what action the world takes to lower emissions of CO2 and greenhouse gasses. How affected the world will be by this warming will be a matter of what steps are made to prepare for the effects of this warming, both ecological and social.
There is much that a conscious capitalist may do to help alleviate the effects of ecological threat. And as the threat increases, the imperative increases.
The IPCC was delivered as I was in the reviewing process of the annual Ecological Threat Register, a report from the Institute of Economics & Peace (IEP) that collates and analyses a large amount of ecological data then compares it to the societal resilience and future stressors to determine which societies are least likely to cope.
Like most of our work, this report is seen through the prism of peace and human optimisation, and to that end our work isn’t only concerned with the primary effects of ecological threats, like rising seas, disappearing rivers and species degradation, but also on the secondary effects, like political upheaval, famine and violence.
The research has consistently found that countries with the least available water and food, and with the largest population growth are often the most violent. We have also found that within these countries there is often a vicious ecological cycle occurring, with declining resources leading to fighting over these resources and the fighting, in turn, degrading the resources.
Afghanistan is an example of the vicious cycle in which the ecological threats further violence and violence furthers the ecological threats.
The 2021 Ecological Threat Report gave Afghanistan one of the highest overall scores, meaning it’s one of the countries with the lowest likelihood of coping with the ecological shocks it will likely experience in the future. Afghanistan scored very poorly in all five of the ETRs indicators with water risk being the indicator in which is scored most poorly.
Water has been, is, and will continue to be a driver of conflict in Afghanistan.
A landlocked country, Afghanistan has long experienced fighting over access to waterways, valleys and land in which farming can be profitably undertaken. Current snowdrifts and rainfall could be adequate for Afghanistan’s water needs, except that the infrastructure requited to capture and use that water have failed, due to ineptitude, corruption and conflict.
There have been efforts to address Afghanistan’s water capture problems, especially in the last two decades, but fighting has hampered those efforts and Afghanistan’s water crisis continues.
Afghanistan is obviously an extreme example, with the country being designated by the Global Peace Index 2021 as the nation’s least peaceful country, but although it is an extreme example of an ecological vicious cycles, it’s not unrepresentative of vicious cycles that exist all over the world, especially in poorer and more violent countries.
The vicious cycle of increasing resource scarcity
Increased stress on resources can lead to deteriorations in peacefulness in a vicious cycle.
Helping to break those cycles is something that a conscious capitalist is in an excellent position to do.
The obvious and most common way a conscious capitalist may approach ecological threat is through the lens of environmental, social and corporate governance: committing to companies that have, by way of charter, mandated to ethical environmental and moral practises, and refusing to invest in harmful industries that emit significant CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
But this doesn’t draw on the creativity of the conscious capitalist. The solution to many of the most troubling issues can be found in innovation. The question for society is how to create a favourable environment for these entrepreneurs to flourish.
Those of us in business want to use the skills we have developed in our careers and the capital we’ve amassed to further businesses that may alleviate these secondary effects and break vicious cycles.
This can take the form of direct and simple investment in ventures like micro water capture or small-scale manufacturing in cooperatives or it may be something on a larger scale like accelerating technological innovation or supporting financial instruments that may accelerate adoption of the right technologies.