Thursday, June 23, 2011

What a start to the Conference!

Robert Bateman opened the 2011 Responsible Investment Conference with an inspirational speech that was at times amusing, at times informative and always thought provoking.

Although, as would be expected from a renowned naturalist, his themes come from nature, those themes resonate in the world of SRI. Notably, thinking about the cost of things that today we deem free and the long term impacts of today’s often short sighted decisions. Mr. Bateman quoted Chief Seattle, ‘Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.’

He effectively used his paintings to illustrate points, beginning with Driftnet, showing a dead Pacific White-sided Dolphin and Lysan Albatross. ‘These drifting "walls of death" captured untold numbers of dolphins, whales, pelagic birds (birds of the open ocean), sharks and turtles, along with the targeted species.’ Shrimp is one of the worst offenders when it comes to bycatch, with an estimated ratio of about 6:1. This unfortunate fact led to many of us feeling too guilty to eat the shrimp at the reception later that evening. It is possible to reduce that bycatch ratio, but we would have to pay more for our shrimp. ‘Is it worth it?’, asked Mr. Bateman rhetorically, ‘Is it worth it to pay a little more for the future of our planet?’

‘You can pay now or you can pay later, but if you pay later, it’s going to cost a whole lot more. What if the land for Stanley Park had not been set aside, imagine the cost if you tried to buy Stanley Park today.’

However, no matter how dire the situation of planet Earth, Mr. Bateman doesn’t lose sleep over it, ‘It’s a sin against creation to worry about it. Do a simple three breath meditation, and then go outside and thank a tree, or even a dandelion.’
And then do something to make things better. Be a hummingbird. Mr. Bateman told us this story, popularized by Wangari Maathai. A terrible forest fire broke out one day, and all the animals fled their homes. But one hummingbird zipped over to a stream, got some water in its beak, and rushed back to the raging fire. The little hummingbird tried to douse the flames with a few drops of water, then back to the stream it flew to retrieve more water. The other animals watched in disbelief. They asked the hummingbird what it was doing – one tiny bird would not make a bit of difference. The hummingbird replied, “I'm doing the best I can.”

A fantastic grab bag of a speech: art, history, environmentalism, economics, humour and hope, even a verse of Big Yellow Taxi, you couldn’t ask for more.

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