Getting the balance right is critical for our survival

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Earlier this month, the IFoA Blog published an article by Nick Spencer, Chair of Sustainability Board. The article titled “Biodiversity Sessional: Planting the seeds“.

In our recent discourse at the IFoA in recent years, climate risk has come to the forefront. Of equal importance, is biodiversity loss as a critical systemic risk for actuaries. We have to pay attention to this.

Climate change, habitat loss and degradation, biodiversity loss are consequences of excessive consumption, population growth, pollution, over-exploitation of nature, conflicts, epidemics, and technology. The effects are most easily observed in the following industries – fishery, agriculture, energy, mining, infrastructure, forestry, tourism.

“Today, we ourselves, together with the livestock we rear for food, constitute 96% of the mass of all mammals on the planet. Only 4% is everything else – from elephants to badgers, from moose to monkeys. And 70% of all birds alive at this moment are poultry – mostly chickens for us to eat. We are destroying biodiversity, the very characteristic that until recently enabled the natural world to flourish so abundantly. If we continue this damage, whole ecosystems will collapse. That is now a real risk.”


David Attenborough

The issues at stake and underlying drivers are of a higher order. It is calibrating a sustainable relationship with nature, moderating our own need for excessive growth, and ensuring fairness within our system. The answers will not only lie in the science and innovation of renewable energy, investment policy or governance changes in institutions. All these remain necessary and critical in creating more climate-friendly means of development and actuaries should play important roles. The fundamental issue remains humankind preoccupation with growth and our need to master nature.

Humankind is part of nature and its ecological system and must not see itself as transcending it. We are paying the price of violating the planetary limits of growth. We have to change our paradigm to living within these planetary limits, place greater weight on collective long-term interest as a species, and balance it with our need for invention, ingenuity, and progress. There is increasing evidence that our species need both communitarian instincts and individualist freedom for progress. Getting the balance right is critical for our survival.