By Emily Pool, Happy Planet Financial Planning
Labelling is endemic. It helps us to simplify in a very complex world. But labels polarise. You either are something or you are not, it’s our brains making irrational shortcuts.
Labels are also often used to define and marginalise minority groups of people who have something important to say, and to which the majority do not wish to listen. Why don’t they wish to listen? Because to listen, to actually listen, to accept that there is some truth in their words, would threaten their very existence as they know it.
Take “feminists”, for example – the label given to supporters of feminism – often portrayed as bra burning, chippy females not wanting to “accept their place in society”.
See what I did there? I projected a very negative view of a section of society who simply are not happy to continue being marginalised.
Let’s take a look at one of the most pressing issues of our time - climate change. A few weeks ago I was at a lunch being hosted by a product provider. I was the only female financial planner in room. Actually, other than the waitresses I was the ONLY female in the room. During the Q&A after the Market Update I asked the presenting DFMs a question about ESG, and there was a noticeable shift in the atmosphere in the room.
The fund managers were more than happy to discuss how the growing concern over environmental, social and governance issues was affecting investor and market behaviour. Some of the other advisers in the room were not – perhaps too “fluffy”, not hard data driven, not measurable in terms of profits and return.
At the end of the meeting the host turned to me and said, “oh you should talk to Sarah in the support team, she’s really in to all that “hippie” stuff!” I was really quite shocked. On many levels, though, I kept my cool.
I do not identify as a “hippie”, though I have no problem with anyone who does. My concerns over the state of our planet exist because I have my eyes and my ears open and I have the greatest respect for the environmental pioneers of our time – Attenborough, Gore and Thunberg – to name but a few. There may be many who have no time for these inspirational people, but that is because what they have to say endangers their status quo.
The irony is, that what is at stake if we do not listen is far more than “lifestyle”. In 2022, every developed economy of the planet is reliant on consumption and consumerism. Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty of this as the next global citizen. But I am resolute that we need to change and that change must happen fast. If 2050 is to bring us net zero we have to start yesterday.
So, back to my opening statement.
Next time someone, be it a stranger, a colleague, a grandchild, voices their concerns about our direction of travel into climate disaster, hear them out. Ask them questions, for they may impart knowledge and bring you an awareness of a situation that you have had your eyes and ears closed to. Please don’t put them down as a “greenie”.
The environmental problems we face need to be owned by every one of us – climate change will not discriminate – we will all suffer the result of global warming, loss of biodiversity, animal extinction, etc. – the repercussions will be far reaching and unthinkable.
If you call me a “greenie” you are saying to me that I have made this my problem to deal with and in doing that you have absolved yourself of YOUR responsibility. You tell yourself that you do not need to worry about the impacts of irresponsible companies opting out of the regenerative economy, because as long as the “greenies” own the problem, you don’t have to.