The first post I wrote on Medium was about the need for better federal policy action on climate change. Incredibly — thankfully — climate change policy discussions are much more mainstream than they were in February of this year. Increased awareness is due to a variety of factors, from those images during COVID-19 lockdowns demonstrating how quickly emissions could drop without daily humans activity, to a record hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean and deadly wildfire seasons everywhere from Australia, to Indonesia, Brazil, and the western United States.

Olafur Eliasson: Earth perspectives, 2020. The Earth viewed over the Greenland ice sheet: A continent-wide ice sheet produced by falling snow over millions of years, now melting at staggering rates due to human-induced climate change.

I had written that initial article to underscore the belief that we…

Agnes Denes, Before Planting: Wheatfield — A Confrontation, Battery Park Landfill, 1982

As US states open up, and the Republican-led Senate grows wary of passing more economic stimulus bills, those of us who hoped that things would not go back to “normal,” have started wondering… what comes next?

We’ve learned a lot: those meetings really could have been emails, and business travel really could have been replaced with video-conferences. …

Back when I worked in banking I read a book on my commute that felt like I was carrying a rebellion in my bag: it was called The Myth of Capitalism. The book demonstrates how, while built on capitalist principles, the United States economy has descended into something more resembling an oligarchy, or erstaz capitalism; that is, economic gains are privatized and losses are socialized.

The book demonstrates that, given free market competition is integral to the definition of capitalism, since there is little actual competition among firms today, America has a monopoly problem.

American capitalism no longer boasts competitive…

I have always been obsessed with history. As a child, I used to wonder what the history books would say about my lifetime: would it be like the Roaring 20s or the Great Depression? Would I live through another World War, or a Renaissance? Would I get my chance to be the equivalent of a suffragette? Or to march from Selma? And how would I know when it was the time?

Glenn Ligon: Double America 2, 2014

I was in ninth grade when 9/11 happened, and a junior in college at the beginning of the Great Recession. While these events shifted the course of my entire…

To reopen the economy or not? Socioeconomic debates in time of Coronavirus

You know the story.
Most of the global economy is at a standstill in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the highly contagious virus SARS-CoV-2 that has run rampant on our planet. Because the US did not do enough to contain the virus when it first arrived in January, the only way to stop its spread has been through social distancing: a concept pretty much everyone except epidemiologists learned about in the past month. In practice, we shut down the (significant) portion of our economy that requires…

In a previous post, I wrote about the $2 trillion gap in financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and some of the structural barriers to increasing investment. A few weeks later, in response to COVID-19, the Federal Reserve lent $1.5 trillion to repo markets, which was followed by a Congress-approved $2 trillion economic stimulus bill (the CARES Act). While it is important to note that the trillions suddenly made available did not come from extra cash lying around — the Fed issued securitized loans to banks (that will likely get paid back) and the stimulus bill came by raising the…

Last year I attended a multi-disciplinary workshop on sustainability. In a room full of experts representing a wide range of backgrounds, I was met with crickets when when I brought up the role of capital markets in combatting climate change. You see, at these events, capitalism is a dirty word. It is regarded as the preeminent cause of climate change; and so whenever someone brings it up, the audience shudders with collective anger.

Without anyone to represent capitalism, however, you cannot have an honest discussion about the alternatives. While it’s hard to disagree with capitalism’s contributions to climate change, capitalism…

The concept of zero-cost emissions is behind every corner of our global economy: from single-use plastics, to our reliance on transportation systems running on fossil fuels, to fast fashion, and waste removal systems built on networks of landfills.

Given that the science now shows emissions were never actually free —and in fact emitting excess greenhouse gases (GHG) may cost us our planet — the most straightforward policy to incentivize the right kind of sustainable change across the entire global economy is to set a price for carbon; that is, tax emissions. …

There are a lot of acronyms on Wall Street. One of those acronyms that has become a bit of a buzzword lately is ESG: short for environmental, social, and governance investing. E,S, & G are additional factors/drivers/issues for which to screen investments. When I started in banking I might not have been able to tell you what all three letters stood for at once. I would have probably said “it’s like impact investing, but institutionalized.” ESG was just not a part of my daily investing language; clients didn’t ask, and if they did, there was little we could offer them.

Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson (1970). Image © Dia. Smithson coined the Earth Art movement, site-specific works that incorporated the environment, in 1968.

Agnes Denes: “Green Wheat” Wheatfield — A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, 1982

To me, one of the most fascinating things about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is that someone actually took the time to calculate how much additional capital needs to be invested per year to meet the goals by 2030. Leaving aside the impossibility of that calculation, we are five years in and the estimated annual USD$2 trillion gap is no where close to being closed. Why not?

During my career in banking, I had a small window into the massive amounts of capital flowing around the world at any given point in time (in asset management alone the estimate is…

Ellen Brooks Shehata

From Tahrir Square to Wall Street and back again: ex-banker focusing on sustainable development and investment.

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