Personal agency

In our current onslaught of overlapping pandemics, like the climate crisis, there is a call for each of us to act toward a better future. It might come from activists and protesters or your own worldview.

Whether you are a single person, a national state or a transnational corporation, there are demands for you to change to avert catastrophe. That’s a lot and fear demotivates — traumatizes us — into collective inaction, frustration and a loss of hope. Still, you compost, recycle and drive an electric vehicle charged by solar panels. You may vote at the ballot box or shop conscientiously in your familiar sphere.

But when you are asked to exercise personal agency with usen masse and at planet scale, you might feel powerless. You’re not alone. We may, in fact, have previously ceded our power. That’s information.

At Bank of Nature we ask “What is your power.” The old question about “Who has the power?” is not helpful. Your power…. our power is the power of accountability.

When humans created social constructs like society and economy, we choose in the aggregate to create systems of mutual benefit. Today, that personal power feels far away in a status quo that seems designed to strip personal power.

If we, as humans, can make social constructs like an economy, then surely we, as humans, can change them. But, that’s not happening.

At Bank of Nature, this lead to a conversation about outmoded conventions that endure even when we agree they are unacceptable. What if, for example, we designed an incomplete economy that has never been corrected, evolving a status quo that undervalues humans as part of nature? Our governments and markets and industries are guided by this economy that we know is destructive. They didn’t make the system, and they don’t seem wanting or able to unmake it.

If this happened in a corporate setting, we would demand a leadership change. We’d move into a turnaround strategy in which hard decisions become clear if the corporation is to survive. As individuals, we would make choices about what to sacrifice as a strategy, rather than a vague demand for change.

Instead, in our status quo, we defer to the experts and we cede our power and agenda. Worse, these are not experts in intergenerational loyalty or programs to manage certainties among uncertainties — like fiduciaries — nor are they experts in forever. Their only expertise is in share price, and expectations for future movements in the market-clearing prices of shares traded in markets.

Then, we watch the ill qualified experts squabble over facts or make choices of consequence that we don’t support. For a lot us, understandably, we give up.

We have the power of accountability. And that power is participatory, not autocratic. It is what maintains a person’s agency in their control of fiduciary funds, like pensions and endowments. Are your fiduciaries acting on your agenda? Should they spend their tens of trillions differently toward a different economy that reflects your intentions?

We have a voice in that contract. That is where our power is: The actions of public trusts that have the money that talks. It’s a social contract and democratic — personal agency in aggregate. We are co-authors of common sense.

The law of fiduciary duty looks to the common sense of reasonable people guidance. That is the social contract with terms on which we do have a say.

A Bank of Nature, we want to engage in the idea of social contracts that move us toward a good Anthropocene, endgame sustainability and a two-way human-nature economic partnership. The experts? Fiduciaries helping us exercise our personal agency en masse and at scale through big money.