Part 2: Betting on the Future
by Franke James
So far in my talk, I had sketched out how technological changes (like personal computers, digital drawing and the advent of the world wide web) and environmental changes (rising CO2 emissions and melting ice caps) had impacted me. And how these changes were creative catalysts for me. Now I asked the students to look at a global industry that literally bets on the future.
The Insurance Industry may seem like the most boring and conservative business around, but they are big risk-takers. Whenever they issue a policy, they’re taking a calculated risk and betting on the future. But now things are changing…
So what is Lloyd’s citing as examples of climate change risk?
I pulled out three examples from their 2009 report, starting with their assertion that no one knows how quickly climate change will happen — or how severe it will be. Should we just sit on our hands? No. Lloyd’s common-sense advice — considering they are the largest industry in the world, and have trillions of dollars at risk — is to create an action plan. (Perhaps some Governments need to read this report…)
The illustrations are from my 2007 essay To My Future Grandkids in 2020 which interestingly echoes the same concerns as the Lloyd’s 2009 report. Hmmm…
Decades ago, the insurance industry warned us about the dangers of smoking. And when people didn’t listen (and the tobacco industry fought back), they raised life insurance rates anyway.
They also warned us about other risk-taking behaviors, such as drunk driving. Getting charged with DUI is a guarantee your car insurance rates will skyrocket.
Now the insurance industry is warning us about climate change. Considering their track record, I think we should pay attention.
“Even a 2 degree temperature rise is likely to lead to more intense storms, some significant droughts and a largely unknown effect on sea level. If we miss the target, we make the crossing of tipping points more likely, some of which can radically change the magnitude of the risk.” Trevor Maynard, Manager Emerging Risks Team, Lloyd’s of London
And Patrick Liedtke, Secretary General of the Geneva Association spoke of this scenario — frightening to those who keep a close hand on their wallets, “If left unchecked, global warming may make the cost of some insurance unbearable.”
James Lovelock is not optimistic.
Dr. James Lovelock, the author of over 200 scientific papers, and most recently The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning says, “Our wish to continue business as usual will probably prevent us from saving ourselves.”
Irritating! Yes, that’s my reaction whenever I read Lovelock’s “business as usual” statement! (And I don’t think he would mind me saying that at all.) When I heard him speak recently in Toronto, he came across to me as a remarkably good-natured man, who is predicting that humanity is in a fight for its very survival, and must quickly find ways to adapt.
So what proof can I offer that society can change, and we should not give up hope? I showed three simple examples, starting with trash.
In 1979, we threw everything in trash cans. Now in 2009, we sort all our garbage into 3 different bins.
i. Recycling goes in the Blue Bin
ii. Trash goes in the Gray Bin
iii. Food waste goes in the Green Bin.
And the City gives us an incentive to reduce waste by charging us depending on the size of the trash container chosen. Just a few years ago, naysayers said, “The Green Bin will never work because people are too lazy to sort food waste from their trash.”
But that has not proven to be true. Virtually everyone recycles and puts out their green bin each week. That’s one example of society changing.
Another example is music.
The Roadmap: Who are you going to be?
Part 1: Who are you going to be?
– I’m not who I thought I’d be…
– Making a difference through activism and storytelling
Part 2: Betting on the future
– Betting on the future:An industry that wins only if it correctly predicts.
– Can Society change? James Lovelock is doubtful.
Part 3: Taking Action for 350
– Taking Action: 350 on Campus and Around the Globe