$1 trillion to the rescue

If Iraq is worth $1 trillion, let's allot just as much to benefit humanity.

Economists project that the cost of the war in Iraq, when all is said and done, will come in at $1 trillion or more.

I say: Let's do it again!

Let's allocate another trillion dollars – but this time for the good of all humanity and all species. Let's do it with the same moral urgency and vision that has made America great at so many critical junctures in history.

There's an emergency and an opportunity out there that calls for The Next Trillion.

It's about more than geopolitics and petrodollars. It's about more than the science of climate change.

It's about the need for global economic institutions to evolve in response to the social and environmental challenges of our time: growth in population, accelerating technological change, accelerating capital flows, growth in consumption, increasing pollution, widening wealth gaps.

Today's global economy creates a thousand billionaires and a billion thousandaires. It has created what venture capitalist John Doerr calls "the greatest legal accumulation of wealth in history."

But it also drives China to add 65 gigawatts to its electric grid each year, most of which is produced by highly polluting coal-fired power plants.

And today's global economy is driven by Americans, who use more energy, put more carbon into the atmosphere, and generate more waste than any citizen in history – and by a shameful margin.

The financial returns of the 20th century depended upon environmental and social trends that are unsustainable. The old worldviews and economic institutions are no longer adequate. We must begin to move, and move boldly, in a new direction.

The good news is that out of the current military, political, and environmental quagmire arises an unprecedented opportunity for America to leap into a new era of economic leadership.

Here's how The Next Trillion should be invested:

•$250 billion for clean energy and energy efficiency;

• $250 billion for carbon sequestration and bioremediation;

• $250 billion for sustainable food and forests; and

• $250 billion for community development.

This is a wildly important moment. A tectonic shift is occurring beneath the culture of conquest and consumption. A tectonic shift is occurring in the consciousness of the consumer, the entrepreneur, and the investor.

We must seize the opportunity to accelerate the transition past "sustainable development" all the way to a full-fledged restorative economy, in which jobs, wealth, and economic vitality are created by enterprises that restore and preserve the common good.

For 15 years, I've been helping investors steer capital toward "triple-bottom-line" private companies, which aim to produce strong financial, social, and environmental results.

We at Investors' Circle have begun to see the power of "patient capital" to support entrepreneurs whose companies are leading the way toward the restorative economy. Such companies include Farmers Diner, building new, local connections between organic-food producers and consumers. Or Verdant Power, pioneering submersible turbines for tidal electricity generation. Or United Villages, providing wireless internet access for villages in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Slowing money down, bringing it back down to earth, thinking longer term, recapturing money, and redeploying it as an agent of community and bioregional health, creating what some have called "virtuous globalization" or, even, localization – this is the next great work.

Let The Next Trillion, then, be the most urgently deployed patient capital in history.

If $1 trillion over five years seems like a lot, view it against the $2 trillion that speeds through Wall Street daily or America's $14 trillion gross domestic product.

If we can spend $1 trillion on an Iraqi nightmare, then we can invest $1 trillion in a new American Dream.

The New Deal, Marshall Plan, Manhattan Project, Apollo Program – when America sets its mind to it, anything is possible.

Let us set our mind to The Next Trillion.

Deployed with requisite vision and courage, it will unleash forces of reconstruction, restoration, and healing, the likes of which the world has never seen.

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