The Politics of the Solar Age: 1975-2015

2. System-wide Transitions
Systemic awareness of vital interconnections is now crucial, such as between energy, water, food and other tightly coupled systems of agriculture, forestry, ecosystem services, financial speculation and climatic changes (all monitored daily by 120 Earth-observing satellites of many countries cooperating through GEO and the International Space Station). For example, the Inter-American Development Bank is financing smart transportation solutions through new public-private partnerships.§§§ Even California’s drought is producing new approaches such as generating the electricity to run water and waste water system with solar energy.25

The Global Infrastructure Basel conference has revealed its first selection of sustainable infrastructure between $5 and $400 million on May 27, 2015, allowing investors to connect with partners and opportunities including wind farms in Vietnam and Senegal, energy and water-saving projects in China, Tanzania; public transit projects in Accra, Mexico City and Fortaleza, Brazil.¶¶¶

The rapid digitization of legacy industries, manufacturing, retail, traditional banking toward mobile-payments systems like Kenya’s M-PESA, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and crypto-currencies like Bitcoin are now spreading to healthcare, legal services and the new “shareconomy” hybrids like Uber, airbnb, Couchsurfer and employment sites like Elance and TaskRabbit. While these new ICT services help consumers’ budgets and provide casual work for struggling people in developed economies, they can also exacerbate inequality in countries applying austerity, cuts to public services, pensions and healthcare. In addition, electricity-gulping, inefficient server farms are at last being addressed by a consortium of IT industry leaders formed in 2007 in their Green Grid initiative26 and a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) effort with EPA’s Energy Star program.27

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has tracked these trends in ICT and how different countries provide infostructure: internet, broadband, fiber-optic cables, WiFi, phone services and how communications networks are provided and under what standards. For example, Scandinavian countries rank highest in providing standard access to this ICT infostructure while Finland defines such access as a human right. The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, since 2001, has produced its Global Information Technology Report comparing progress in ICT across 143 countries because “ICTs have become key enablers of business and employment creation and of productivity growth.” While “ICTs have significant potential for supporting inclusive grow… paradoxically, ICTs have opened up new digital divides.”28 This is seen both within and between countries, largely due to different standards and politics. ICTs can exacerbate inequality of access, condemning many rural and poor communities to structural poverty and unemployment.

In the USA, for example, access to internet and broadband falls behind many countries, where small cities can be stranded without minimum broadband speed for their small businesses and job creation. Left to the private market, large telecom and cable companies have duopoly or monopoly power and simply will not provide access. The Financial Times reported on how these policies deny service to millions of consumers and small businesses, and which US neighborhoods, small cities and rural areas do not have broadband connections.29 The WEF report ranks the USA 7th behind Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland for networked readiness; 14th in access standards behind New Zealand, Britain, Canada and the United Arab Emirates (UAE); 12th on infostructure and affordability and only 10th on business usage.30

According to the US Federal Communications Commission, “High-speed Internet access has become fundamental to modern life. Broadband connectivity can overcome geographic isolation and put a world of information and economic opportunity at the fingertips of citizens… Forty-one percent of America’s rural schools couldn’t get a high-speed connection if they tried… Connectivity is only available at an unreasonably high price.” Yet, the Connect America Fund will invest $20 billion in broadband through 2020, paid by small fees on consumer bills.31 Google, Facebook and new entrants into providing internet and broadband connectivity to all humanity are gearing up with new technologies. Google is developing globe-girdling balloons; Facebook has launched its and will provide access to basic services in tandem with several governments in Africa and hopes to develop solar-powered drones. OneWeb, a Florida-based start-up, aims to provide fast connectivity to all with swarms of cheap, low-flying satellites.32 However, these innovations are unproven and years away. This huge underlying transition enabling smarter energy, water, cities, online education, waste recycling and more inclusive green growth is tracked in our GTS, currently totaling over $876 billion.

This array of deeper issues is now emerging in thousands of top-level, global scientific conferences and is the subject of at least three major UN summits in 2015: 1) Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 2015; 2) the UN General Assembly, New York, September 2015, to debate and ratify the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which succeeded in advancing education, women’s and all human rights and reducing poverty; and 3) the Climate Change Summit in Paris, France, December 2015. The SDGs, launched in 2012 at Rio+20 placed all human goals within the framework of ecological sustainability and inclusive, equitable, low-carbon green economies in member countries and supported open working groups (OWG) in all these countries. A global Stakeholder Forum was initiated to review the goals. Its report on achieving a better balance between economic, social and environmental dimensions produced deeper research and clarification in a systems-based synthesis (OWG Outcome Document).33 An inter-governmental negotiating session at the UN, New York, January 19-21, 2015, conducted a “stocktaking” in preparation for adoption of the final SDGs at the September General Assembly.34

The report, “Sustainable Development Goals and Integration,” Stakeholder Forum 2015, by Amy Cutter, et al.,35 identified cross-cutting issues and where some goals could be focused and integrated with others, for example, how Goal 7: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” was related to Goal 12: “Sustainable consumption and production patterns” (closely followed in our GTS). All the SDGs are related and may be further integrated into a smaller group as advocated by some economists and politicians. However, we agree with those who take a systems view beyond economics and money-based measures, such as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill and Melinda Gates and others.36 We have reported on Goal 2: “Promote sustainable agriculture”; Goal 6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation”; Goal 8: “Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full productive employment and decent work for all”; Goal 9: “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive, sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”; Goal 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”; Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, marine resources for sustainable development”; Goal 15: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

“We recognize that people are at the center of development and, in this regard, we strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and we commit to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection and thereby to benefit all.”
– The Future We Want

Ethical Markets supports all these and the other SDGs which relate to gender equity, human rights and social justice which are fully embraced in our Transforming Finance initiative and TV series, our Principles of Ethical Biomimicry Finance® and our EthicMark® Awards raising the ethical bar for advertising, our Quality of Life Indicators and the Caring Economy Indicators of our partner the Center for Partnership Studies.**** We have promoted such goals since the launch of the Earth Charter and its 16 Principles of Human Responsibility at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro which I have supported ever since.†††† Our coverage continues with daily updates on investments in quality-of-life access to basic needs, including water, healthier agriculture and food, as well as infostructure: internet access, broadband, electronic education and political participation.

3. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
“The stresses now occurring globally are largely due to limited perspectives, ancient ideologies and defunct economic models.”

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet” synthesizes the widespread deliberations of the 193 country members of the United Nations in RIO+20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2012, with the over 50,000 civic, business and investor groups, including us, also participating.37 The global consultations since then led to these new SDGs to expand on the Millennium Development Goals’ progress since 2000. The Rio Outcome document The Future We Want summary states, “We recognize that people are at the center of development and, in this regard, we strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and we commit to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection and thereby to benefit all.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon masterfully synthesizes all these global debates and agreements into “A Universal Call to Action to Transform Our World Beyond 2015”. It contains many of the proposals and new paradigm approaches, new metrics beyond GDP, new Principles and Standards for guiding ethical businesses and investors, cooperatives, NGOs, auditors, accountants and financial firms which we have produced and advocated, both in my books and papers since the 1970s, and those of our company Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil), a Certified B Corporation since our founding in 2004.

Thus, we intend to continue fully supporting these unfolding transformative processes, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Inquiry on Design of a Sustainable Financial System and its 3rd Report “Pathways To Scale”,38 to which we contributed and posted, and continue reporting on them in our Daily Headlines, as well as our Green Transition Scoreboard®, our Ethical Money Directory, our Quality of Life Indicators, our Principles of Ethical Biomimicry Finance®, our TV series “Transforming Finance” distributed worldwide by to colleges and libraries (free at and our EthicMark® Awards for Advertising that Uplifts the Human Spirit and our Future Potentials, now accepting nominations for our 10th annual Awards at, as well as our MOOC: the Ethical Markets Exploratorium, free to students, lifelong learners and global citizen activists.

We believe that 2015 can be a year where these transformations are truly launched in academia, public, private and civic sectors worldwide, because the stresses now occurring globally are largely due to limited perspectives, ancient ideologies and defunct economic models. These transitions show that stress is evolution’s tool and that breakdowns do drive breakthroughs! We favor the “cap and dividend” policies as more equitable and carbon taxes as preferable to carbon trading.39

2015 will see the December Climate Change Summit to be held in Paris, France, focus on hammering out a set of agreements succeeding the earlier Kyoto Protocols (on which I commented in “From Rigged Carbon Markets to Investing in Green Growth”, 2011).40 Hopes lie in the US Obama administration’s agreements with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and their compact with China’s President Xi Jinping to reduce emissions and shift to more renewable energy use. The GTS focuses on this key shift from fossil fuels, carbon emissions and their huge subsidies to inclusive, knowledge-richer, green economies. As we show in this latest GTS report, private investments are still leading in financing this global transition with our new total at $6.22 trillion. Fossil-free portfolios now outperform those with coal, gas and oil, while MSCI, a well-known financial provider is launching a family of fossil-free indexes.41

25 Roy Hales, “A Partial Solution to California’s Water Problems,” Sun Xtender April 10, 2015.
26 “PUE to Become Global Stan30 dard for Data Center Efficiency,” GreenBiz April 5, 2010.
27 Ryan Siegel, “New Server Technology Reduces the Power Required to Save Energy,” Just Means April 9, 2015.
28 The Global Information Technology Report 2015 (Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2015).
29 David Crow, “Digital divide exacerbates US inequality,” Financial Times October 28, 2014
30 Global Information Technology Report
31 Tom Wheeler, “Closing the Digital Divide in Rural America,” Official FCC Blog November 20, 2014.
32 “Expanding the Internet: Sky-Fi,” The Economist April 11, 2015
33 “Open Working Group proposal for Sustainable Development Goals,” United Nations 2014
34 “First Intergovernmental Negotiation on the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” IISD Reporting Services January 21, 2015.
35 Amy Cutter et al., “Sustainable Development Goals and Integration,” Stakeholder Forum, German Council for Sustainable Development 2015.
36 “Economics of optimism,” The Economist Jan. 24, 2015.
37 Secretary-General, The Road to Dignity by 2030 (New York: United Nations, 2014).
38 Simon Zadek and Nick Robins. “Pathways to Scale,” Inquiry: Design of a Sustainable Financial System UNEP January 2015.
39 See for example, Catherine Kunkel and Daniel Kammen, “Design and implementation of carbon cap and dividend policies,” Energy Policy 39(2010):477-486; and Peter Barnes, With Liberty and Dividends for All (San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler, 2014).
40 Hazel Henderson, “From Rigged Carbon Markets to Investing in Green Growth,” Real-World Economics Review no. 57 (2011)
41 “Fossil-Free Portfolios Outperform Those With Coal, Gas, Oil,”, April 13, 2015.
‡‡‡ See for example, Hazel Henderson, Global Infrastructure Fund Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 1998.
§§§ Public-private partnerships offer smart transportation solutions for Latin America and the Caribbean, Economist Intelligence Unit, Inter-American Development Bank and the Multilateral Investment Fund, April 15, 2015.
¶¶¶ First Infrastructure Projects Announced, Global Infrastructure Basel, April 15, 2015.
**** Transforming Finance at; Ethical Markets TV Series at; Ethical Biomimicry Finance; EthicMark Awards at; Ethical Markets Quality of Life Indicators at; Caring Economy Indicators at
†††† The Earth Charter, Earth Charter International, San Jose, Costa Rica.

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