WHEB Commentary

Resurgence festival of well-being


I was in trouble on Saturday as I abandoned my family on the eve of my youngest child’s christening to go and spend the day at the 45th anniversary of Resurgence, the environmental magazine edited since the mid-70’s by Satish Kumar, and which has recently merged with the Ecologist. As it turned out, organising the next day’s festivities went more smoothly for my absence, and it was worth the risk on my part as a wonderful array of speakers entertained a packed audience at the Bishopsgate Institute in the city.

For many who have long been part of the struggle to advance sustainability issues further up the agenda, it can sometimes feel frustrating. It is frustrating that the pace of change is not faster, it is frustrating that so many politicians still don’t ‘get it’, and it is frustrating that the Sustainable and Responsible investment industry still remains such a relatively small part of the investment world, despite the ever rising tide of evidence that should be demanding everyone’s attention. As Jonathan Porritt pointed out during his speech on Saturday; how will we reflect back on a time when last week’s news of the ‘staggering’ new evidence on melting of the artic sea ice is to be found in the inner pages of the Saturday press, whilst the front page is reserved for the furore about photographs of a topless Duchess of Cambridge?

However, the Resurgence event reminded me how important it is that we celebrate what has been achieved. The organisers of the Resurgence Festival of Well-being managed to do this by combining come of the most high profile speakers on the environment in the UK, together with music and entertainment. So Matt Harvey’s brilliant poem, ‘ode to the potato’ (see you later/mashed potater…), was sandwiched between Patrick Holden (former Director of the Soil Association) celebrating some of the achievements and spelling out some of the challenges for organic farming, and Richard Layard (Professor of Economics at LSE) describing the economics of happiness. Two of the most inspiring speakers of the day were Fiona Reynolds and Polly Higgins. Fiona (outgoing Director-General of the National Trust) described the remarkable progress that her institution has made to connect millions of people more closely with nature. She also spoke about how the environmental movement needs to find ways to inspire people to embrace change with a positive vision for the future. In a similar vein, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s first MP, made a joke of asking “what happens if climate change doesn’t exist and we’ve built a better world that we don’t need?” Polly Higgins is a lawyer, who is campaigning for ‘Ecocide’ to be recognised in law as an international crime. This week she is travelling to New York to present her case to the United Nations. She speaks with eloquence about how such a law might fundamentally change the way in which businesses are incentivised to manage natural capital and received a standing ovation from the audience to speed her on her travels.

Much like the Resurgence magazine in general, the event was a great way to reflect on why these issues, that we grapple with every day in managing an investment fund focused on solutions to sustainability challenges, are so important and represent such significant challenges, but also that there are achievements to be celebrated and real opportunities to be grasped. And the christening went off without a hitch too!

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