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Introducing the Money and Environment blog series

Our new blog series is inviting researchers, artists, and economists to share thoughts, concerns and hopes

Author: Ismail Ertürk

When Covid-19 kept us all in our homes Irini and I discussed a series of online events on the theme of “money and environment” using FutureEverything’s online space Future Focus launched when our lives were restricted to our homes. So far, we have organised three successful events, the last one involving a micro-commissioning of an interactive fiction artwork by William Drew, co-funded by Mozilla Festival. Each event involved a multi-disciplinary panel discussing the following topics and then interacting with the online audience through Q&A: “environmental impact of money creation in its physical and digital forms,” “economy, environment and ethics,” and “societal value of the financial concepts of uncertainty and risk as applied to climate emergency.”

The Money and Environment project is a response to the global mobilisation of finance through various channels to deploy the global collective savings of people it manages for the good of ecology, climate, and society. The financial sector, after having caused one of history’s most damaging crises in 2007, has been trying to evolve as an ethical force for humanity. Modern finance’s power emanates from its size and its all-encompassing logic that are a specific historical phenomenon resulting contradictorily from increasing economic precariousness of ordinary people under contemporary economic policies, who save big chunks of their income for their ever-postponed retirement and borrow heavily to save the day today. Hence, when the financial sector and financial regulators announce their commitments to fight climate risk and to green the economy -like the private financial institutions led by an ex-central banker Mark Carney did in the last COP26 in Glasgow by pronouncing a seemingly gigantic USD 130 trillion for this purpose- they offer the size of finance, the number of big financial institutions involved as axiom for success. The credibility of the money’s environmental narrative is equated to its quantitative properties. This size, then, is formatted and nuanced for specific ecological and social targets by quantitative risk and return algorithms esoteric to the society and are embedded in a knowledge and value system that often cause crises and socio-economic destruction. 

In this context and in the face of climate and ecological emergencies the Money and Environment Project aims to explore the possibility of a humanities-based financial and economic knowledge and globally shared/created societal values in business. The recent rise in the number of greenwashing cases in corporate world that colour the pages of financial media, and the financial world’s public acknowledgement of and insistence on its short-term interests at the expense of long-term societal needs for environmental causes – like in the cases of HSBC and Blackrock, two giant financial institutions that manage money at multiples of the world’s largest economies-  necessitate urgent societal engagement with the financial world on a series of issues like values, knowledge, risk, return, common good, etc. regarding climate and environment.  

FutureEverything aims to be a facilitator of such engagement, dialogue between the art world, academics, NGOs, activists, and the financial and business world. A new language and a different logic about values and knowledge need to be collectively imagined by cultural, societal, economic, and scientific communities. The French philosopher Michel Serres, who wrote extensively on environment, ethics, and science, articulated sharply the collective aspect of climate and environmental risks. He used art, the painting by Goya named Fight with Cudgels, to point out that there is no winner at a fight where the adversaries fight on a quicksand- the quicksand will devour both the winner and the loser before the fight ends. Hence the urgency to fight collectively the quicksand, the climate emergency, environmental deterioration and to rethink our local priorities, values, and knowledges for global common good. 

The German filmmaker Wim Wenders brought such success in fighting the quicksand to our attentions in his documentary film, The Salt of the Earth, on the Brazilian social photographer and economist Sebastião Salgado. Salgado has produced effective photographic expressions of the social consequences of human-made environmental catastrophes caused by pure profit-seeking economic activities. Salgado and his wife Lélia, then, had a chance to reverse some of the environmental damages. They have regenerated a 1,754-acre Atlantic Forest that was destroyed by Salgado’s cattle-farming parents. It took planting two million trees, using Vale’s, Brazil’s notorious mining company, regeneration engineers and resources, and twenty years to completely regenerate the biodiversity of this huge land.

Financial sector and businesses need to leave their bubbles of knowledge and values within which they self-referentially try to deal with environmental issues constrained by suspect quantitative risk models, impulse for short-term monetary returns, and constant search for high executive pay. Conversations and dialogues with artists, humanities scholars, activists are as important as finance and businesses organising themselves around institutional frameworks like Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) ambitions, stock market sustainability indexes, green taxonomies of industries, etc. But equally important is the society’s engagement with the money managers to propose alternative economic values and knowledges in deployment of their savings for environmental and social purposes. Art institutions like FutureEverything can facilitate such dialogues and explorations through projects like “Money and Environment.”  

Ismail Ertürk, Senior Lecturer, Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester 


The Money and Environment project is co-curated by Ismail Ertürk and Irini Papadimitriou. Past conversations are available online, on our website and YouTube channel.

Money and Environment I – environmental impact of money production

Money and Environment II – economy, environment and ethics

Money and Environment III – uncertainty and risk

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