Hunter Lovins: Sustainability & Investing in a World You Want to See

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Photo via https://www.lls.edu/

The newest episode of our podcast, Mindful U, is out on iTunesSpotify, Stitcher, and Fireside now! We are excited to announce this week’s episode features renowned author and champion of sustainable development, Hunter Lovins.

 play-icon  Hunter Lovins: Sustainability & Investing in a World You Want to See

“If we were to create a regenerative economy here in this region — what would it look like? People say the Colorado economy is nothing but extractive industries–mining, conventional agriculture, oil, and gas–and that’s what it always has been, and what it always will be. But that’s not true. Colorado’s economy is really, predominantly services. It’s educational institutions, a growing natural foods industry and organic agriculture, a lot of tech, and a lot of entrepreneurial startups. Outside of Silicon Valley, the Denver-Boulder area is one of the hottest startup communities in the world. There’s tourism, the outdoor industries, and the cannabis industry. Put all of these together and they dwarf the so-called “heritage industries” of oil, gas, coal, mining, and conventional agriculture. We have a regenerative economy, and its actually already bigger than the old-fashioned extractive economy, but we don’t recognize it. We don’t celebrate it, and we aren’t asking: ‘What is it about our current economy that served us in the past, but is no longer?’ Or, ‘What is the economy we do want, and how do we encourage that?'”

Full transcript below.

L. Hunter Lovins is the President and Founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS), a non-profit formed in 2002 in Longmont, CO. A renowned author and champion of sustainable development for over 35 years, Hunter has consulted on business, economic development, sustainable agriculture, energy, water, security, and climate policies for scores of governments, communities, and companies worldwide. Within the United States, she has consulted for heads of state, departments of defense, energy agencies and hundreds of state and local agencies.

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Mindful U host David DeVine with Hunter Lovins.
Full transcript
Hunter Lovins
“Sustainability, Investing in a World You Want to See”

[MUSIC]

Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And it’s a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC]

DAVID:
Hello, today I’d like to welcome a very special guest to the Naropa community and to the podcast — Hunter Lovins. Hunter is quite an extraordinary person with her work in sustainability. Being awarded many awards that I can’t even list because its so long. She is also an author, a teacher, a speaker and a president / founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions. Such an honor to speak with you today and thank you for coming.

HUNTER LOVINS:
I’m very honored to be with you.

DAVID:
Awesome. And so you’re here to speak to sustainability classes today? Is that what you’re doing in town?

HUNTER LOVINS:
That’s what I am told.

DAVID:
Cool. So, my question to you is during my research it was clearto me that you are invovled in like so many projects. You have so many things going on. You have like such an interdisciplinary approach to how you do everything. Can you just give the listerner — what is it like to work in all of that and what are you currently working on?

HUNTER LOVINS:
What is it like to work in all of that — fast!

DAVID:
Its a pretty big question.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Overwhelming and so I find I have to take it a moment at a time.

DAVID:
Ok.

HUNTER LOVINS:
When I get up in the morning I — if I am honest I have no earthy idea what I’m going to be doing throughout the day. And, life is like that. Life is what happens when you’re planning to do something else.

So, I can get a phone call at any point in time from a head of state. Once — Secretary laughed and said conjure someobody who says they’re the president is on the phone and I said he probably is.

I can get a call from a corporation. Can get a call from uh — Boulder County Animal Control that there is a fire in the mountains and we’re needed to go and rescue horses. Can uh — be on the dark side of the planet consulting with small community groups that are trying to save their community from something that is threatening them. Can be in a classroom teaching. Now, those sorts of things tend to be booked ahead of time.

Last week I was at the United Nations speaking at an impact finance summit. Couple weeks before that I was also at the United Nations speaking to the uh — annual NGO forum — 2000 delegates from non-profit groups from around the world.

Uh or I could be flogging my new book which I will be doing I guess this afternoon with your students. Also, next week, we will be launching what we call the Regenerative Hub for the Denver, Boulder area. If we were to create a regenerative economy here in this region — what would it look like?

People say the Colorado economy is extractive industries — mining, and conventional agriculture, oil and gas and that that’s what it always has been. That’s what it always will be. It’s not true. If you look at what our economy really is — its predominantly services. Its educational institutions. Growing natural foods industry and organic agriculture. A lot of tech. A lot of entrepreneurial startups. The Denver, Boulder area is now outside of the Silicon Valley one of the hottest start up regimes in the world. Its tourism. It’s the outdoor industries. It’s the cannabis industry. You put all of these together and they dwarf the so called heritage industries of oil, gas, coal, mining, conventional agriculture. We have what you might call a regenerative economy bubbling up through the surface and its actually already bigger than the extractive economy, but we don’t recognize this. We don’t celebrate it and we aren’t putting the effort into saying what is it about our economy that may have served us in the past but is no longer the economy that we want to be living in. And what is the economy we do want and how do we encourage that?

DAVID:
Oh, I love that. You have this approach where you’re showing what is actually already happening and then people don’t necessarily know what’s going on and so you’re getting the stature, gathering it together, you’re putting it in one place for people to actually realize what is happening in their state and community and I really appreciate that. Being like here’s actually what’s going on. Other than assuming something what’s going on. And feeling empowered while doing it.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And more to the point — what do you want to have going on? What’s the world you want to live in? What would a world be if it worked for everyone? Not just the one percent or the uber rich or — the industries that may have served us in the past but aren’t such good neighbors anymore like fracking.

DAVID:
Yeah, what are we investing whether it be financially, energetically, physically within our communities and society — that’s what I kind of get out of that. Ok.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, we will be gathering at the Alliance Center down in Denver. Couple hundred folk who care about this. A man named John Fullerton who wrote the paper, “Regenerative Capitalism” will come and speak on the evening of the 9th.

So, uh —

DAVID:
Activated.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, if you are not doing anything else on October 9th come along and join us.

DAVID:
I might be doing that. Awesome. Thank you for inviting me.

So, you seem to be so activated and motivated in your work. You have so many things going on — I am actually curious like where does the inspiration come from? Like — as a little girl growing up there was something that you just clicked in your mind? How did it come within classes growing up or —

HUNTER LOVINS:
I am not sure I ever really had a choice. My mother worked with John L. Lewis organizing mine workers in the coal fields of West Virginia. My dad helped mentor Cesar Chavez and Martin King. They were around the house when I was growing up.

DAVID:
Wow! Ok.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, this is just what you do. You try to create a finer future.

DAVID LAUGHS

HUNTER LOVINS:
I still remember my mother coming home and saying we’re not eating grapes anymore. Well, why not? Because Cesar is boycotting them. To this day, I have a hard time buying a commercial grape. Even though now the farm workers are organized, unionized and the grapes are picked in ways that are not as destructive of human well being.

DAVID:
Yeah, I like that being able to notice that you’re not energetically involved in or invest in and then you can shift it like instantly.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Every day we make choices. We choose what kind of car we’re going to drive. So, I drive a Leaf. An electric car. We choose what we’re going to buy. You can buy from a Walmart or you can buy — if you want a big box store you can buy from a Costco which pays its workers a living wage.

Or you can buy from a little local vendor where you — you actually walk in and say hi David! And you’re talking to somebody you know who lives in your neighborhood and if you don’t like the product you can go back and talk to them about it.

We can build this kind of an economy that is based on local ownership, on taking care of each other, on having in our community the kinds of products that we want — locally grown food, locally manufactured goods, locally provided services. We then can engage in a vigorous global trade if we want to, but we know that the place that we live has its own economic integrity.

I mean I am a big a fan of Scottish Whiskey. We make good Colorado whiskey, but I happen to like the whiskey from Scotland. So, as long as I know that my own community is cared for — has its own integrity then I feel fine if I am buying a luxury, buying something from half ways around the world.

DAVID:
Yeah, I am kind of a tequila person.

HUNTER LOVINS:
There you go. We don’t grow so much tequila in Colorado. But still if the uh — the Denver Boulder area — what might be called the upper South Platte watershed — has economic integrity — and people are cared for. People have equitable opportunity to enter into the economy. Their voices are heard.

DAVID:
I like that way of looking at it.

So, my other question was kind of — I guess you almost answered it in a way — is like how did this path get started and it seems like you just grew up with some very informative people doing great things and you were birthed into this movement. What was that like for you? Was that just like another day in the house?

HUNTER LOVINS:
Just another day in the house.

DAVID:
Cruising around and then when you were going to college was this a path that you were going to take essentially or did you have other pathways in mind?

HUNTER LOVINS:
I was always clear that I was going to be in the service to these issues. So, it was never a question of what classes to take. Gosh how is it I can make a lot of money? I am never going to make a lot of money. I grew up reasonably poor. I am going to live reasonably poor. And then one day a gal whose friend of mine whose husband has more money than God — said to me Hunter you ought to be rich.

And I said, best I know I am rich. I live where I want to be. I have enough money to take care of myself, my horses, my little ranch. I go where I want to go. I work with people I want to work with. Best I know I am rich. And the next morning her husband called and said — she’s gone. I said oh. I may have had a hand in that. He said she loaded up a backup yesterday afternoon and took off into the hills. And I uh — I said well do you want her back? He thought for a minute and he said yeah, I guess so. I said well then saddle up a couple of horses — I know the trail she is on. If she left at four, she will not have gotten far enough up it where the trail splits and you’d have to actually go hunting — you’ll find her somewhere along there and she’ll likely be glad to see you. But it occurred to me — here is somebody with all the money that you could ever conceive of having. And she is not happy.

DAVID:
What does being rich mean to you and what is actually being rich?

HUNTER LOVINS:
Waking up on my ranch, fixing myself some — eggs from some chickens that I buy from a guy down the road. Going out into my garden — these days picking an apple off of my tree and sitting on my porch watching the horses graze and knowing that today I don’t have to climb on an airplane.

DAVID:
That’s beautiful. So, refreshing. Yeah, I wonder that sometimes too because you know I’m not like hugely financially supported in my own endeavors, but I feel extremely rich with the opportunities with the friendships and the community that I am involved with — the things that I am able to do. And that’s what makes me feel really good.

HUNTER LOVINS:
You know a friend’s surveys ask people when you’re happiest what are you doing? And it’s almost always that they are giving something to someone else, they are helping someone, they are taking part in the activities their community needs done. They are giving of themselves.

DAVID:
Yeah!

HUNTER LOVINS:
And that’s something every one of us can do every day!

DAVID:
Just gifts all day.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Just gifts.

DAVID:
Awesome. So, we all kind of know what sustainability means. But I am curious – how do you define sustainability and what does that look like to you and what does sustainability mean to you as well?

HUNTER LOVINS:
Sustainability is a way of being in the world — that arises because the activities you are doing are regenerative. Sustainability isn’t the goal — it’s the outcome of behaving in ways that are regenerative particularly of human and natural capital. So, that everything that you do — is making the resources around you richer, more capable, more able to go on — so whether it be composting such that the carbon is going back into the soil. Or, eating food that’s locally created — sold by people who have local ownership in the store. Being conscious of your activities throughout the day. And, there are more and less sustainable behaviors so — even some of the biggest arguably nastiest companies like Walmart — when Walmart came out with its sustainability scorecard — they probably did more to encourage sustainability around the world than I ever will do.

DAVID:
Why do you think that is?

HUNTER LOVINS:
Because of their reach. Because when Walmart says to China, we want sustainably made products — Chinese are going to say sure. If I say yo, China — crickets. I am not going to have anything like the impact that one of these big companies can have. So, while I love working in my own community working with small businesses I went and spoke to the entire senior management at Walmart when they first made this announcement. I wanted to look Lee Scott in the eye and see if I thought he was serious. So, I held up a book, “How Walmart is Winning America and the Rest of the World,” and I said this may come as a surprise to you all, but you have critics.

And I’ve been talking to them.

DAVID:
This is a little surprise.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And I said fair enough you’re uh selling organic underwear and putting solar panels on your roof, but if you roam the planet rapaciously exploiting in developing countries and in communities here — so that people like me can buy more pink fuzzy slippers — this is not sustainable. What would a truly sustainable Walmart business model be? I said I don’t know the answer to this question, but I think it’s the one that is before you now.

And I took the book and sort of chucked it at Lee Scott. It hit the floor and went bam. He jumped. But he picked it up and so for a couple years after that I helped advise Walmart as I advise a number of big companies on things that they could do to improve their sustainability and as I say as a result of that the work that they did — has impacted much more of moving the world in the right direction than anything else I could have done. That’s called leverage.

DAVID:
I hear sustainability sort of being something that shows up for everyone and is benefitting all people and planet?

HUNTER LOVINS:
It has to be. If you look at the science — the work around planetary boundaries by Johan Rockstrom and the folk at Stockholm Resilience Center — we’re exceeding the capacity of the earth to carry us in at least 4 out of the 9 — what they identified as the planetary boundaries. At the same time, we are failing to deliver to all people the capacity to live lives of dignity. This is the work of Kate Raworth in Donut Economics. So, what she said is there is a donut shaped space — below the planetary boundaries, above the human minimums. The sweet space — a safe and just operating space for humanity — this is the concept of the donut. And so, yes, sustainability has to apply to everyone on earth or in many ways it applies to no one.

At the moment, we’re losing live on the planet at a faster rate than when the dinosaurs went extinct. We’re losing the capacity even to feed ourselves — some of the scientists say we have 60 more harvests left and then we have depleted the fertility of the soil.

And —

DAVID:
That’s real!

HUNTER LOVINS:
That’s pretty —

DAVID:
That’s pretty close.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Uh Lester Brown, the great sustainability scientist has shown that we’re one bad harvest away from famine on the planet. We are so unsustainable at the moment. We have 67 million refugees on the move today. Driven in large part by — climate change across north Africa, the middle east. The scientists tell us by perhaps as early as 2040 the middle east will be uninhabitable. It will be too hot.

At the same time, we know how to solve all of these problems. We have the technologies to put in place renewable energy for the entire world. I work a man named Tony Ceba who says inevitably by 2030 the world will be a hundred percent renewably powered because of four things. Fall in the cost of solar, fall in the cost of storage — batteries, the electric car, the driver-less car. He said these coupled with a business model of transit as a service — will this place essentially all oil, gas, coal, uranium — all of the — the nasty forms of energy — and if Tony is right — and I think he is. Because uh when he and I had this conversation a couple years back I started watching. Fall in the cost of solar. There was a projection in early 2017 that solar would fall below 2 cents a kilowatt hour in 2017. It did so in October when the Saudi’s commissioned an 800 megawatt solar field at 1.7.

Mexico’s brought some on at 2.4. Recently here in Colorado Xcel Energy which has been exceedingly sentimental about their attachment to coal — put at out an all sources bid — who could supply us 1700 megawatts at any price from any source. There was no fossil bid before 4 cents a kilowatt hour. Wind was a bit below 2 cents. Solar was a bit above 2 cents. Solar plus wind plus storage — batteries — was 3 cents.

DAVID:
Wow!

HUNTER LOVINS:
It’s happened. We’re at the point at which solar energy is cheaper than fossil energy.

DAVID:
Oh, I love hearing that.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, Xcel was so startled they put it out to bid again. They said well it can’t possibly be true.

DAVID:
Hold on, wait a minute here.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And the numbers came back essentially the same. So, in the last 2 weeks Exxon announced they are going to shut two of their coal plants and go to 60% renewable. Now, why aren’t they going to 100% — well I suppose you have to give them a little while to get used to this new world.

So, here is Tony right on fall in the cost in of solar. Batteries. When the Aliso Canyon well blew out in Southern California Elon Musk said let’s put in a big battery. He did in record time and at a price point roughly the same as bringing on a natural gas peaking plant.

He then turned around and put in a hundred megawatt battery in South Australia when they had a power failure a week or so back the battery dispatched power faster than any former alternative. He brought it in below time, below budget.

So, Tony appears to be right on too. Oh, and by the way, China has 20 giga factories to bring on more of these batteries coming online in 2021.

The electric car — China has said they are phasing out the internal combustion engine. General Motors has said our future is electric.

DAVID:
Great.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, that’s three for three. The driverless car — they are on the road today. Yeah, one killed somebody a while back, but 6000 people die in the United States every year from driver cars hitting pedestrians. These things are safer than the cars we have today. And transit as a service — when we have electric vehicles you take out your smart phone and whistle one of these things up — it gets you from where you are to where you want to be tenfold cheaper than what you do now to pay buy, maintain, fuel and insure a private vehicle.

DAVID:
Yeah.

HUNTER LOVINS:
At that point we all switch. You now need a 6th as many cars in urban areas — which means you free up a whole lot of land for affordable housing or parks or whatever you want to build there. So, we’re going to rebuild our cities. Now, if Tony is right — you’re going to do away with oil, gas, coal, uranium, nuclear. The utility industry, the auto industry, the banks that hold paper in them, the insurance companies and pension funds that are invested in them.

DAVID:
That is quite a bit.

HUNTER LOVINS:
This has the potential to be the mother of all disruptions within 10 years’ time. Which is to say we’re going to reinvent everything.

DAVID:
There is something sparking in my mind where this shift is only being summoned because of the shift of economics. We’re ready to shift, we have the technology, we have the people, we have all the things that we want to do, but it takes it getting cheaper for the people who have most of the power to shift it — to actually decide to do it.

HUNTER LOVINS:
It could happen if we all said we want it. When Steve Jobs introduced — the iPhone. It cost more than the phone you already had in your pocket, but we wanted it. So, we all went out and bought it. I can remember a time when we didn’t have the internet —

DAVID:
So, can I.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And it wasn’t that long ago.

DAVID:
It wasn’t that long ago.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, these massive shifts are possible, and they can happen very rapidly. And once they start to snowball — you best get out of their way. But, at the same time we do need to give a little bit of thought of which avalanche should we want all of this stuff to come down. Or it will come down on top of us.

So —

DAVID:
Which avalanche — I like that.

HUNTER LOVINS:
We also know how to solve the climate crisis at a profit through regenerative agriculture. And this is the work of the Savory Institute here in Boulder. And a lot of people who are doing regenerative agriculture around the world — when the pioneers came across the Great Plains of the United States, they found 10 feet of thick black soil. That black is carbon. How did it get there? It got there because the bison and the elk and the grazing animals were dense packed by predators. If you’re a bison and there is a wolf out there — the safe place to be is in the middle of the herd. Everybody is trying to get there. They eat everything. Their hooves chop the soil, the fertilize the soil and then they move on to where there is fresh grass. They don’t come back until the grass has regrown and they hang together as a pack. If you look at the way, we graze cattle now — we turn a few of them out over a vast area. They selectively eat the tastiest bits and so you are selecting forever less productive pasture land.

We can use electric fences, opening and closing water holes to dense pack cattle. When you do this — you — increase the carrying capacity of cattle even on very degraded range lands and you increase the profitability of the rancher. So, its — again we have a business case for doing it this way. And, you put carbon back in the soil. When a cow or any grazing animal eats grass and grass has 40 times the carbon per weight of say a tree. The grass loves what are called polysaccharide sugars. Which have carbon in them. That feeds the biological community in the soil. That — particularly the microarousal fungi mineralize the carbon and that’s what put the black into the prairie soils.

So, there is a man in the Dakota’s named Gabe Brown. He was going broke trying to grow commodity corn and soy beans. First, he went to no till. He stopped breaking the soil — plowing it. Then he planted cover crops very deep-rooted plants that would carry the carbon deep into the soil. Then he would turn cattle out on the cover crops. So now he is not having to grow hay to feed the cattle through the winter. His cover crops are doing that. He then comes back drills in corn, soybeans and oats and a whole array of other crops. He now has a diversity of agricultural products that he is selling. He is wildly profitable. And, he’s rolling climate change backward. When he started this — some of his plots were little over 1 percent soil organic matter carbon in the soil. He has some now that are 15%. Native prairie soil is around seven.

DAVID:
How long did it take to get that number?

HUNTER LOVINS:
10 years.

DAVID:
10 years?

HUNTER LOVINS:
And we’ve done some calculations. If you did this over the world’s grasslands which are now the world’s second largest carbon sink but are decertifying because of bad management. So, if you did what’s called holistic management over all the world’s grassland over something like 30 years you get back to 280 parts per million concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. So, what can you do to help? Buy your food from practitioners of holistic management.

DAVID:
Interesting. Is there a way to know if they’re holistic managing their properties or not?

HUNTER LOVINS:
Ask them is the best way. And if you buy local you can do that. The other is to go online.

DAVID:
Ok.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And if you just go to the supermarket and buy commodity eggs uh no, they’re not regeneratively grown. But, take a look on the package. Many times, they will say pasture raised. That means they are practicing a form of holistic management. And, figure out what the name of the farmer is. And write them. And ask them — are you practicing holistic management?

Savory is working on an approach they call land to market. Where practitioners who are doing holistic management are marketed to the consumer as regenerative. So, you’re going to start little labels on packages of regeneratively grown.

And that’s a way —

DAVID:
It’s making it easy for the consumer.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Yes, make it easy for the consumer. Now, how does Savory that it really is regenerative? They have created a thing called Ecological Outcome Verification. Which is a process that a farmer or rancher goes through so that they know is carbon content in their soil increasing year on year? Is bio diversity increasing year on year? And they measure a whole set of both leading and lagging indicators. And, Savory takes a look at that information and certifies them.

DAVID:
That’s so great. It’s like a little scorecard.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And now you know —

DAVID:
Holistic scorecards.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Holistic scorecards. And this is what Walmart did with its suppliers. They said — they had 15 questions. Question number one, do you measure your carbon footprint? Question number two, do you report that measurement to the carbon disclosure project.

DAVID:
That might hurt some companies to even look at that as a first question. They’re like oh boy —

HUNTER LOVINS:
Yes, oh boy this is real. But who the hell is carbon disclosure project? Who died and made them God? Well, Walmart. But they were a group of kids out of the UK who about 15 years ago said — companies should measure and manage their carbon footprint.

DAVID:
Accountability.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Accountability.

DAVID:
I love it.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And about two years ago they came out with a report showing that the companies that are leading in measuring and managing their carbon footprint have 18 percent higher return on investment than the companies that are lagging. 67% higher than companies that say well we don’t care about carbon. Again, it’s better business.

DAVID:
Does that look more sexy to the public? Is that why — it’s just kind of this — the new thing? Or do you think —

HUNTER LOVINS:
No, when you pay attention you pay attention. If you’re paying attention to your carbon footprint, you’re better managing your company. What’s your carbon footprint?

DAVID:
Yeah, and your product is probably way better too? Yeah!

HUNTER LOVINS:
It’s the fact that you have burnt fossil fuel to produce your product. If you’re using solar — you don’t have a carbon footprint. So, the companies that are doing the right thing — have a lower carbon footprint. So, a few years ago a group of us put together a little company called Change Finance. To create —

DAVID:
That’s the one with the little buffalo?

HUNTER LOVINS:
The little buffalo. The little bison. To create what’s called an exchanged traded fund — an ETF. That is truly fossil fuel free. Our investment theory is — if you’re paying attention — if you’re better managing, you’re better managing. So, the stocks ought to outperform.

How about that? So far, they are.

DAVID:
One thing I really appreciate about your work and how you view sustainability is you don’t have this like oh throw economics away — its not working. We need to focus on the land. You actually bring them together. You have a diverse — like a holistic look at economy and sustainability and how do they work together. So, using money to benefit sustainability, benefit land, benefit people who are doing the good work and I really appreciate that about you because when I was doing some research, I was noticing you’re very involved in that. And you actually realize like oh we’re not going to rid of banks — like that’s actually whole other —

HUNTER LOVINS:
Well, actually we may. Blockchain may —

DAVID:
It’s a possibility. Well we know about blockchain, coin base — all that fun stuff.

HUNTER LOVINS:
A bank is a clearing house. If I’m a rancher. And I have a herd of cattle, which I actually have a small herd. And, you grow eggs. And I want some eggs and you want some beef. We can trade — or we can — I can sell my cattle, put the money in the bank, you put your money in the bank. When you want beef, you pay me for the beef. I want eggs — I pay you for the eggs. The bank is the clearing house. And we trust that the bank — if we — give them a certain amount of money it will still be there. Well, that’s what blockchain does. You put a certain amount of money in and it’s still there. Its verified by the blockchain. Ok, now why do we need a bank? A utility — I want electricity to the extent I don’t make it for myself. I mean I have 5 kilowatts of solar on my ranch, but at night when I don’t have a wind machine or a geothermal rig or whatever else could give me fixed firm 24-hour power — so its simpler to exchange it with the utility.

Suppose I put up batteries — and my neighbor wanted to buy from me? Right now, that would be hard. With blockchain it would be dead easy. So, you’re starting to see micro grids emerge. Right now, they’re emerging in places like Puerto Rico where the existing utility is just so corrupt you don’t want to deal with them. But we can have them here in Boulder. Neighbors buying and selling from each other. Using blockchain.

So, folk like Alex Tapscott who has this great video on blockchain — is saying again, this is going to change everything! We’re going to do away with banks and utilities and all of the other institutions that are clearing houses — all of which charge us a bit for the service of being a clearing house because blockchain will do it for us. And I’ve also heard other people say no, no, no. These institutions provide other services we want, we are going to continue to use them. I still think blockchain is going to be extraordinarily disruptive and it’s going to be very interesting to watch these institutions scramble to figure out how to do it differently.

And I think that’s a good thing. This kind of disruption — this innovation, this entrepreneurship is what brings us a better — way to live.

DAVID:
I fully agree with you. I have a blockchain. I have a coin base. I got all these like little crypto kind of investigations going on and I love it because you are communicating with a different source of using money and or trade. And, the way the blockchain is set up is actually pretty secure. It’s a little bit more secure. Yeah.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, they say.

DAVID:
And, it’s not based on fiat — the idea “of” something. So, I’m doing my homework and we’re moving in those directions and I feel like other people should too because there is a beautiful disruption happening within that and a shift of, we don’t need to be stuck in something that may not be serving us as much anymore.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Indeed. And there are some very interesting carbon plays going on on the blockchain. There is a company called Nari that has created a carbon coin. There are now two or three others coming along. There are regenerative farmers that are creating coins so that you can invest in putting carbon into the soil through regenerative agriculture. And again, we are only scratching the surface of all of the fun things that we can do with this. At the same time, be careful. You can lose a great deal of money —

DAVID:
You can.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Being an early investor into some of these things. So, do your homework. Deal with people that you know and trust. And I think we can create this finer future. And that’s why I wrote the book titled, “A Finer Future.” It hits bookstores the 9th of
October or you can order through Natural Capitalism Solutions or you can get it from Amazon if you like dealing with great big businesses.

DAVID:
Wait a minute that’s coming up! That’s in a couple days.

HUNTER LOVINS:
That’s coming up. It’s like next week.

DAVID:
Well, hey look at that — I have a question about your book.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Hey, look at that.

DAVID:
So, it’s called, “A Finer Future: Creating an Economy and Service to Life.” When someone picks that up what should they expect in reading that. Like what’s the direction in this book?

HUNTER LOVINS:
When I first started writing it, I went through as we talked a bit about the bad news. About all the threats facing us. And the people who read the early chapters said — we can’t read this. I just put it down. So, I thought can’t have that.

DAVID:
Hard to digest it all?

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, I rewrote the beginning of the book. Its 2050 and we’ve made it. What’s life like? What does it feel like to wake up in a passive house in Indonesia in a shared community? What does it feel like to be attending the business school where I teach the bar at MBA in New York City for young African woman who has just ridden the little train down the middle of Broadway in New York City and is joking with a woman who is harvesting vegetables because the streets are now gardens with a little train running down the middle of it?

And, what’s it like when the Savory Center in Africa is the world center of how we do agriculture. And just vignettes of what life could be like in a finer future. And remember back in 2018 how we were threatened by climate change, but we solved that through regenerative agriculture. Or remember how we were afraid that we were losing bio diversity, but we’ve solved that and then the rest of the book is how we solve it. In each instance in the introductory chapter where I say, and we solved it — there is a footnote to what’s happening now today.

William Gibson the science fiction writer said the future is already here it’s just not widely distributed. And it’s true! Somewhere around the planet is the solution that we need. And what we need to do is pull all of these together and then perhaps most importantly we need to tell a new story.

The story that runs the world economy today is called Neo-Liberalism. It’s based on a set of mental models. We’re all greedy bastards, but because the market is perfect — you against me will somehow aggregate to the greater good. No! It won’t — it hasn’t. It has led to all of the challenges facing us. And the fact that 8 men now have as much wealth as the bottom of humanity. The soaring levels of inequality. And, the over running of our resource base. When scientists look at what has caused collapse throughout human history — they find it caused by one or both of two things. You over run your resource base, or you have high levels of inequality. Hello, here we are!

DAVID:
Wait a minute I see something there.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Yeah, there is a pattern here. So, the book then walks through — what would a new story be? It turns out again you go back to the science — humans aren’t greedy bastards. When pre-humans came down out of the trees in Africa — we were naked, our paws we’re pretty inadequate. Our teeth weren’t all that long and sharp. We weren’t as fast as the lion. We are here. You and I are having this conversation today because our ancestors cared more for the good of the whole than any one of them cared for him and herself. We know this from the DNA.

Apparently, there were a whole bunch of tribes of pre-humans. Most of them went extinct. The ones that didn’t — and it’s in our DNA — this is not a bug — it’s not a flaw in human behavior. It is core to who we are as humans — these ancient pre-humans cared for people who were cripples and they cared for the elderly.

They cared for the community more than the young strong ones cared for him or herself.

And, the scientist now tell us — Dr. Paul Lawrence at Harvard, Dr. Michael Pierson at Fordham that humans have four drives. The drive to acquire and once we have stuff the drive to defend that’s — we share with all animals. But we also have two more. The drive to bond. And the drive to comprehend. To tell story to create meaning. And these last two they say — are just as core to who you are as a human as the first two. And they are not fungible. You can’t trade one off against the other.

This is why we have throughout history pervasive stories of uber rich people who were miserable because they don’t have friends.

DAVID:
Getting their backpack and just leaving.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Its why we love Facebook. We love people. We love each other.

DAVID:
Yeah, what are you doing over there?

HUNTER LOVINS:
Yeah. Show me. I want to see. And, this bonding is as a I said just as core to who we are as human beings as the Neo Liberals said was the drive to acquire. So, if that’s true — if we’ve based our economic system on bad mythology, we need to rewrite our story.

DAVID:
I love that. Yeah. We’re meaning making machines.

HUNTER LOVINS:
We are.

DAVID:
So, what is the meaning that means more to us in this moment? And let’s write that.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And what will give us survival.

DAVID:
Yeah.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Is bonding. Is working together. Is innovative, entrepreneuring, creating these new approaches, technologies — and I believe it starts with a new story of what is regenerative. Life is regenerative. Nature is sustainable not because it said oh, we’re going to be sustainable, but because its regenerative it is constantly creating conditions conducive to life as Janine Benyus put it. And this is what we need to do in everything we do — create conditions conducive to life.

DAVID:
Yeah, how are we giving life in this moment? Whether it be with our words, our actions, our purchases —

HUNTER LOVINS:
Or just a smile.

DAVID:
Yeah. Oh! You’re making me smile.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And we have this capacity. This again is human. Across the planet. Anywhere on the world — if you encounter someone and you smile — they smile back.

DAVID:
Yes! Yes, I have this idea where we have the make up, the characteristics to do what is right in every single moment. The people who aren’t doing things right in every moment, they still have it within them to do it and so we need to learn how to invite others to make good decision and also to have that internal dialogue with ourselves to invite ourselves to do the same thing in every moment. And I was — I was listening to some quantum physics stuff yesterday with Nacine Hareman (sp?) who is like the resident projects — he is like crazy brilliant, but there was something that triggered in my mind where we are part of the field in which we engage in and we have the mechanisms and abilities to change within the field with a smile. You give someone like the little like oh, quivers and they feel good in their heart. You shifted the field. We are part of the field — shifting it in every moment. So, it’s might as well invest in the things that will shift it towards the benefit to us.

HUNTER LOVINS:
We have so little clue how the world really works. And we created this myth of neo liberalism — we being 36 men who met in 1947 at a hotel outside Montreux, Switzerland. A hotel called Mont Pelerin. And they laid down the principles of neoliberalism that markets are perfect, that freedom — individual freedom is the paramount value and that it is best expressed in markets. Therefore, you don’t need government. Government is unnecessary they said. It should be as small as possible and get out of the way.

They — created a thing called the Mont Pelerin Society. They go their members as advisors to every head of state on the planet. Milton Freidman one of these 36 took over the Chicago School of Economics. So, if you’ve had an economics class — this stuff is in your head.

And, they beavered away. It was still a wonkish ideology until in 1971 a man named Lewis Powell here in the United States was asked by the Chamber of Commerce how business could become the dominate institution?

You know 1971 — the 60s were sex, drugs, rock and roll — the culture revolution was delegitimizing business. So, the chamber said how do we get back in power?

And you can go online and download the Powell Memorandum and read it and it is chilling. Because it is the playbook by which the neoliberals — the far right took over the country. Things like Powell laid out 26 targets. Things like uh schools of business. Textbooks. Lower court judges. School districts. And on the strength of that memo 5 institutions of Olin, Coors, Scaife, Bradley and Koch brothers — each committed something like 5 million dollars for 5 years to create and endow Heritage. Fast forward to 2017, our cheeto in chief walks into the Oval Office — deer in the headlights because he did not expect to win. And he is handed a playbook written by the Heritage Foundation. Here is who you appoint. Here is your first hundred days.

When Mr. Obama walked into the White House — he had to make it up. And remember he walked in in the face of the — 2008 financial collapse. The country was coming — the world economy was coming unglued and it really was. Another one — one or two more banks go down and it would have been the Great Depression and they were going to go down.

So, Summers, Geithner had playbooks written by Goldman and they said here is what you do — re-liquidify the big banks. Take care of Wall Street. Where we’re we with that playbook of no, invest in mainstreet, invest in the real economy, invest in regenerative businesses.

We had no playbook.

So, last week in New York a group of us launched an organization called WEAll. The Well Being Economy Alliance to begin writing just such a playbook so that when a government is in trouble, we can say here is the economics, here is the science, here is the evidence that if you invest in main street — as opposed to implementing the austerity that organizations like the International Monetary Fund say is essential if your country is in deficit. Here is how you will grow your economy. So, we’re gathering the scholars, the researchers, the scientists — we’re also gathering the activists. New economy organizations from around the world who want to start working together — crafting and disseminating this new narrative of a world that works for everyone.

And, business people. There are a number of businesses that have said look we know we’re part of the old world. We know the world is changing — help us transform.

DAVID:
Oh great.

HUNTER LOVINS:
So, one of these businesses put a quarter million dollars to launch WEAll. And I sat with them — their an old line brand name business you’d recognize it in a heartbeat and they said help us.

DAVID:
Help.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Help us transform.

DAVID:
So great.

HUNTER LOVINS:
And so, we’re working with businesses. We’re working with faith groups. Working with academics and scholars and activists to — to try to build this narrative of a finer future.

DAVID:
Yes, if it doesn’t work for everyone it will not work.

HUNTER LOVINS:
It will not work.

DAVID:
So, we go step up in what we can do, you know. I love it! So, we’re kind of done. And I just — I have so many more questions.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Poke with a fork — I’m done.

DAVID:
But I mean damn we can just talk forever. You’re just so — you just have so much energy and you’re just so enlightened in this field and it’s just so good to hear all this, but I mean unfortunately our time is up.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Well, if people want more of it — go to your local independent bookstore and get a copy of, “A Finer Future.”

DAVID:
Great. So, I just have one more question for you. And you don’t have to make it too long, but what would you like to see happen in the next 10 years? And then to follow that how can people find you, follow you, maybe shout your book out and any other things that you want to do.

HUNTER LOVINS:
I am on Facebook — Hunter Lovins. I’m on Twitter — @HunterLovins or @HLovins — I forget which on it is. Natural Capitalism Solutions — www.natcapsolutions.org. You can buy the book there. “A Finer Future: Creating an Economy in Service to Life.” And what I would like to see is for the young generation to take responsibility for creating the world it wants to see.

Vote! Number one thing this November — vote! In two years, God damn well vote!

We can shift the politics. We are shifting the economics. For the price of a pizza you can invest in one share of our little ETF — CHGX. With that you’re now an impact investor.

DAVID:
Wow, I’m going to buy a couple pizzas. LAUGHS. With that investment. That is great. I — I love investing in the world that I want to see. And that is something I feel empowered in doing and I guess there is this invitation to ask us all to step up and do this.

HUNTER LOVINS:
Every dollar you spend, every action you take — is a choice. What kind of a world do you want to live in?

DAVID:
Exactly. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

HUNTER LOVINS:
You are so very welcome.

DAVID:
It is time that we let you go onto your next adventure here in Boulder. And so, thank you so much.

HUNTER LOVINS:
My pleasure.

DAVID:
So, I’d like to thank Hunter Lovins for speaking with me today. Hunter Lovins is a sustainability activist. Also, an author, a teacher, a speaker and President / Founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions. So, thank you again.

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On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at www.naropa.edu or follow us on social media for more updates.

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