Talking of Long Finance (see last week’s updates on sustainable finance), there’s some really interesting publications from the group that runs this program, in partnership with the Financial Services Club. This builds on the work of the Long Now.
I wrote a long blog about The Long Now almost a decade ago, and haven’t updated much since. So, here’s an update.
The core of the Long Now is the Long Now Foundation:
The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.
WTF? 10,000 year thinking?
Well yes. When you think that most of our management and governance today cannot think further than the next 10,000 seconds, is it any wonder that our planet is messed up?
But what’s the point of 10,000 year thinking? I remember when I first encountered this group, they were talking about how we respect our history today: the Pyramids of Egypt, the Acropolis of Athens, the Colosseum of Rome, the Forbidden City of Beijing, the great Cathedrals of the Renaissance, and such like. How come they are still here when most structures of that time have fallen to rack and ruin? They exist because the rulers of those ancient cities and civilisations had zero focus on short-term gains and wanted to leave a long-term legacy. Sure, they may have been dictators and megalomaniacs but hey, look at their legacy.
This type of thinking on long-term impact versus short-termism is what the Long Now and Long Finance is all about. That’s why the Long Now Foundation is building a clock in the American desert that will last for 10,000 years. That’s why they use dates where we are currently living in July 02019, as in a 10,000 year calendar. Oh, and building a 10,000 year clock in the desert is no mean feat, if you think that it will tell the time accurately for that length of time with zero maintenance or management. That’s the idea anyway.
Meanwhile, as mentioned the other day, I friended the late Bernard Lietaer twenty years ago when his book on the future of money came out. The book is a firm grounding in sustainable finance and talks about investing for long-term achievements rather than short term gains. Bernard called it Sustainable Abundance:
Sustainable Abundance may sound to some like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. ‘Greens’ support sustainability, but are sometimes suspicious of abundance. Business will be in favor of abundance, but may question the emphasis on sustainability. These apparent contradictions will be resolved once the possibilities of new currency systems are fully understood …
It would be considered our birth right to have a fair chance to develop our true potential – unhampered by a lack of money. Sustainable Abundance addresses issues ranging from grinding poverty in the Third World to the bleakness of community decay in the industrialized areas, from ecological breakdown to the wasting of a child’s mind due to lack of educational opportunity.
Sustainable Abundance is not about taking away from the haves to distribute to the have-nots. On the contrary, it is about giving everybody a fair chance of nearing new wealth.
The book goes on to try to give an answer to the fundamental question: How can we resolve the conflict between short-term financial interests and long-term sustainability? It does a great job at trying ot achieve that and, beraring in mind that Bernard was a central banker and understands finance intimately, is a seminal book that changed my thinking about money. I can strongly recommend you read it too, especially from the section headlined: Relationship between money systems, time perceptions and sustainability (around page 278 in my version of the book).
After a lifetime of study of the causes of the demise of civilisations, the historian Arnold Toynbee concluded that only two common causes explain the collapse of 21 past civilisations: extreme concentration of wealth and inflexibility in the face of changing conditions.