Investing for the Future
By Nilooka Dissanayake
Lately I have been reading many things about the way of the world. One of the more interesting, The Way of the World - From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the Twenty-first Century By David Fromkin. Another interesting article I stumbled upon was Eight Technologies that Will Change the World. And it is interesting how you come across things that are relevant to your interests. If you are looking for furniture, you see all the furniture shops and advertisements that never caught your eye before. Now things about the future are popping up over my horizon, like the proverbial mushrooms. From all this, there is one thing that becomes clear. Yes, just ONE. Change is happening at a faster pace than ever before. And here’s something that tries to make sense of that change of pace:

"For the overwhelming preponderance of human history, humans have lived in societies that were characterized by 80% continuities, 15% cycles, and only 5% novelties at best. Now I believe the figures are reversed: 80% of our futures may be novel, 15% cyclical, and only 5% continuous with the past and present" says Prof. Jim Dator, Hawaii Centre for Futures Studies. If the ways of the world are changing thus, should you not also look at investment opportunities for the future from that perspective? Do you recall the children’s verse about the old man who was planting a mango seed? The little boy asks why, because he knows the tree will take so long to grow and grandpa won’t be there to eat the fruit. Perhaps this kind of approach to investing is necessary. Going one step further, perhaps we should look away from industries and investments that deplete or pollute the environment and depend on coal, oil or gas. That means, we should look at not mass scale, but small and medium scale production units, high tech industries that are energy efficient and are capable of transforming to non renewable energies of the future as they become available - a whole new way of doing things, in other words.

We might also take a cue from India. Baba Kalyani, CEO of Bharat Forge, India’s most successful auto parts supplier is quoted in the latest issue of Fortune saying, “In India our competitive advantage does not lie in cheap labour. It lies in cheap brain power.”

Do you think this is too dreamy coming from this column? Not at all. Besides the list of broad investment areas for the future that I listed last week, let us look at another, more specific list. This stuff is definitely do-able on a small scale and you might laugh at some of them.

Lester Brown who was President of the Earth Policy Institute believes these areas will hold great potential in an Eco-Economy. This list is a summarized version of the many ideas he describes in Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth.

* Hydrogen Generation - Ocean waves and other sources may be tapped to provide some local electricity and to split hydrogen from water.

* Fuel-cell Manufacture

* Solar-cell Manufacture

* Wind-farm Construction & Wind-Turbine Manufacture

* Fish Farming & Aquaculture – Holds great potential because the oceans are tapped out.

* Bicycle Manufacture - If you don’t believe this will become important read some articles on the next energy crisis. Bicycles also find favour with health-conscious eco-consumers.

* Tree planting – Grandpa was spot on, wasn’t he?

* Geothermal Engineering – This means using the energies of the earth itself.According to Glen Himestra, a speaker and consultant on the future, “many of the enterprises in this list, while important and large in aggregate, are small scale in terms of local production.

They fail to immediately capture imagination and take decades to accumulate impact.”But, one must also remember. None of this is new. Alvin Toffler speaks of all these new energy sources and options in his Third Wave (1980) except wind power.

Now what will you invest in for the future? Share with us your ideas on this topic. Send your comments and questions to

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