And now for the 'good' newsLine
One of, if not the only, benefit of flying as close to the deadline as I habitually do is that I can change what I am planning to write at the last minute. My story of two neighbours will have to wait.
I attended an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce in the offices of a prominent investment services company in Cambridge this morning. There was, of course, a presentation during which I learned two things which I found surprising for an odd reason: My initial reaction to these things was that they are both positives, but they were presented as negatives. The first was that population growth rates amongst developed nations are slowing and this is presenting challenges to policy makers. The other is that governments and central banks around the world are actively engaged in trying to get inflation up to a pre-determined level which is seen as a good place to be, but by and large are not succeeding ie; inflation rates in the developed world are remaining stubbornly low. I hadn't realised this. I was at school in the seventies and the talk always seemed to be that inflation was a bad thing which must be kept to a minimum.
Of course, viewed through my idealistically green filter, slow population growth rates and low inflation seem like good news but it's not as simple as that.
After the event I cornered the gentleman who had given the technical part of the presentation and posed the question: If inflation is ideally kept at 2% - how is that sustainable from an environmental perspective? Surely incessant economic growth must lead ultimately to environmental collapse? There followed an interesting dicussion in which he pointed out that much of the economic growth taking place today is amongst tech companies which doesn't involve a lot of depletion of natural resources but is more like cutting and pasting code. A tech company can expand hugely in value whilst retaining essentially the same carbon footprint. Moreover, the growth of a company such as Tesla, now the most valuable car manufacturer in the world, is offset by the declining emphasis on fossil fuels. Thus we see the slowing of some hitherto unstoppable economic behemoths, who have built their value by mining from a finite stock of natural reserves, and the rise of greener technologies which trade on renewable resources.
Interestingly, the man I was talking to, who is one of the foremost equity analysts in the country, proffered the view that the economic growth pattern seen from the industrial revolution to the present cannot continue unabated. In fact, he added that even in the last eighteen months he has seen a swing towards emphasis on environmental values, on the parts of governments and clients alike, be they described as green, renewable, sustainable, or any other parvenu buzzwords, all, in my view, synonyms for 'sensible'.
So it seems that the changes are beginning to come from the top - now that's what I've been talking about.