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Saturday 18.01.2020 | Name days: Antis, Antons

Lithuanian consumer advocate: How I Learned to Love Climate Change

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Lithuania, climate change,

Kęstutis Kupšys

Kęstutis Kupšys, Vice-President of the Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organisations, thinks that the «climate kids» have gone off to schools and the adults got back to «business as usual». Still, he suggests in this opinion piece that consumers should make an effort to learn about and support sustainable finance.

The earth is changing, becoming hotter and all the means that can slow the change are introduced too late and take too long. Facebook friends are left gasping at the forecasts and leave virtual shocked faces all over the feed. I can feel the depression creeping into the minds of everyone that works with climate change issues in Lithuania. Every respectable climatologist in the world is depressed without exceptions.  Sooner or later, this will happen to our local climate professionals as well.

However, even if you’re at the end of your rope, there is always hope. It is said that hope is not something happening at the last minute as some sort of a miraculous healing of the Earth. The real hope is doing the right thing even if you know that it might not work.

That’s why I am making a conscious decision and learning to love climate change! But how can you learn to love it when you see the melting ice caps, the extinction of countless animal and plant species and the already-not-so-shocking news of storms taking thousands of lives? That‘s absurd! You have to be sad, gasp longingly and shed a virtual tear with the help of Facebook.

The choice to love is not a sign of insanity. Once you change your perspective, you are forced to search for new solutions. The best way to mobilize yourself, the organization and society itself is to stop the empty wailing.

And one more thing: it is crucial to recognise and acknowledge the chance that arises from this problem.

It is no surprise that I see that chance creeping out of the financial system.

Modern economy is shaped by money. Money is the universal measure for wealth and success, the perfect thing in itself that can be exchanged for any other thing out there. No other idea has enslaved and changed the world like money has. The ones who have it are perceived as gods and the ones who do not could do anything for it. The result of this is an economy that is being managed only through the prism of money and only for profit. There is a myriad of institutions created just to legitimate, justify and nourish the power of money.

Greta Thunberg is right: the world is dying, and you are still talking about your money and the desired economic growth. Anything that is not measured by money does not matter. Even «the polluter pays» system is broken, and the governments are using taxpayer money to support fossil fuel companies so it would be profitable for them to invest into the extraction of new fossil fuels – and it is drying up the planet.

This is why it is worth it to love climate change. It is worth it to welcome it as a wanted guest.

The upcoming climate catastrophe will drive the change of economic models that the humanity lives by. The centre of that change – the financial system. If we change the financial flows, we will change the future. We will change the economic system because the time to do it is now.

The voices coming from the opposite camp say that capitalism is still alive and well; it is claimed that it is a system without an alternative and only personal initiative can bring wanted technological change that will slow down the climate change and we will get back to «business as usual». It is as if technology is omnipotent and something that is crucial right now, and creative minds will not even lift a finger to create these technologies if there‘s no profit. Maybe. Who knows? Perhaps they are right.

However, the only thing that capitalism has proven is that it is capable of destroying the Earth, not saving it. It is because of profit that deforestation exists, it is because of profit that overproduction is flourishing and excessive consumption is encouraged. It is for profit, and not for anything else, that the banks in Lithuania and the rest of the world are working and managing financial flows. Those flows merge into the vast business seas where all they see is maximising profits and it does not matter if it is at the expense of the future. Foolishness? Yes, but it is dictated by the architecture of the system. Our world is headed towards destruction, not healing.

I believe that the consumers have the power and that everything is possible if we act jointly. Millions of consumer voices are changing the course of public debates. Right now, it is often not the price that matters, but the cleanliness and sustainability. If we opt for a multi-usage thermo cup, why can‘t we opt for sustainable financial services? It is time for the average consumer to express what type of course they are expecting financial institutions to take. Do you accept the fact that your deposit to the bank X becomes a loan to a polluting factory in the country Y?  Or even a loan to a polluting factory in your neighbourhood? You have to tell your bank: «I do not accept this». Unfortunately, you won’t know where your or your grandmother’s savings are going without a nit-picking analysis.

Sustainable finance in Europe is a term that is, for now, only used by professionals, researchers and decision-makers. I am glad about the non-government initiative, similar to Fair Finance Guide, that will gradually start to educate Lithuanian people and reveal the uncomfortable truth about which banks or investment funds are environmentally friendly, and which are not. And it is not just about the environment: environmental sustainability will bring social change as well. There are energy cooperatives, and there are ethical banks and collective impact investment platforms as well.

Change is a good thing. Sometimes that change is forced by external factors, like global warming (though there is no reason to complain or cry about it – we caused it). If in ten years we will see that a distinct and humane financial system has been developed as a result of climate change, it will mean that the world has become different and better. This will give hope to reach an agreement on more humane relationships in the economic system. Therefore, let‘s love climate change as a chance, an opportunity.

Written by Kęstutis Kupšys, Vice-President of the Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organisations. LT language version initially published at the Lithuanian news portal DELFI.LT:

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