Sustainable Investments Sweat the Small Stuff

by | Sep 14, 2010 | Archives

Sustainable investments are not small stuff  but… small stuff may create the best sustainable investments in this new era.

Jyske seminars are really informative.  I especially enjoy them… getting to speak, getting to hear the other speakers and then getting to spend extra time with many of these speakers.

This year’s Jyske seminar in Copenhagen had an added benefit (for me) because two speakers had quite differing views on America and the importance of innovation.


Gary Scott speaking with David Darst.

The first speaker was David Darst. David Darst is managing director and chief investment strategist at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney with responsibility for asset allocation and investment strategy.   He was the founding president of the Morgan Stanley Investment Group after he joined Morgan Stanley 14 years ago from Goldman Sachs where he held senior management posts within the Equities Division and earlier, for six years as resident manager of their private bank in Zurich.  He  earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and was awarded a BA degree in Economics from Yale University.  He has lectured extensively at Wharton, Columbia, INSEAD and New York University business schools.  For nine years he served as a visiting faculty member at Yale College, Yale School of Management and Harvard Business School.

Wow… what a resume.

David is an incredibly powerful speaker and a key point in his speech was that the power of American innovation could create a huge positive economic recovery and offered excellent investing opportunity.

The other speaker, Jeff Rubin, had a differing view.   Jeff stated that the US was in a secular decline (the definition is Declining consumer prices – Declining real estate prices – Declining stock market values) and that American innovation will not create a recovery.


Jeff Rubin and speakers at Jyske Copenhagen Global Wealth seminar.

Jeff Rubin has credentials as well.  He has been has been one of North America’s top-ranked Canadian economists in oil markets for more than a decade. He is best known for his work on global energy markets and is recognized for good calls on oil prices and their economic impacts.  He was chief economist at the large Canadian CIBC World Markets and authored the book “Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller.”

See other Jyske speakers,  Gary Scott… Steve Forbes and Ken Rogoff on… Jyske TV.


The Small Stuff can be huge!


I wore a light colored suit and removed my tie when I spoke at Jyske’s seminar because I wanted to be the guy with the white hat!  If we abolished neckties we could probably turn air conditioning up a degree or two everywhere, the energy savings would be huge!


Everyone else… as a banker or economic analyst had to be dressed in dark or black.  We writers get certain liberties and my message was as upbeat as can be…  “There are few times as ripe with opportunity now”.

A double dip will only increase opportunity!

This site has continually reviewed the 15 to 17 year economic cycle as outline by Austrian economist Joseph Shumpeter.   The global economy (and US stock market) enjoys a 15 year bull…. then a 15 year bear (a period of no growth) and the moves back t start a 15 year bull.   These stock market bull and bear cycles are based on cycles of human interaction, war, technology and productivity.

These cycles are intricately connected with the new waves of productivity that grow from the great human platform of combat. The cycle goes like this.

An economic downturn enhances a war or threat of war. Struggles for survival in the war (like the Civil War, WWI, WWII and the Cold War (WWIII), super charge inventiveness that creates new forms of productivity…the steam engine, the internal combustion engine,  production line processes, jet engines, TV, farming techniques, plastics, telephone, computer and lastly during the Cold War, the internet.

Each new invention helped win a war.  Shifting the technology to domestic use… after the war… created a boom.

Each boom leads to excess.

Each excess led to a correction.  The correction creates an economic downturn.

The economic downturn enhances a war or threat of war.

Here we are… in the correction again… at the correct time when we should expect that another war (or threat of war such as the Cold War) should begin to build!   This latest downturn started almost exactly (1998), 16 years after the last boom began (1982)…which began after the last great human struggle called the Cold War.

If the cycle repeats, the struggle should build now due to the poor economy.  If the cycles repeat then the bottom is around 2012. Everything will seem bleakest… darkest…blackest and this will be the best time of all to invest… hence my light suit!

One of David Darst’s graphs showed these cycles.


The key for spotting the greatest investment opportunities is to spot the next big invention… the technology that will spin out of WWIV.

The key is that a problem must have such severe consequences (such as losing the war and being destroyed) that all stops… all logics of return on investment are ignored. Technology and research are pushed full steam ahead regardless of cost.

The key to great success now is spotting the war.  It could be against global warming.  The battle could be against a plague…. new bacteria that resists antibiotics.  A bad year of crops could create famine and the war would be on hunger.

The solutions could be the small stuff… like removing ties… or even smaller… really tiny… itty bitty.  Yet the opportunity they create will be huge.

For example look at the war on oil based energy in a September 2010 article by Peter Pachal at entitled “Scientists discover tiny solar panels that create themselves”.


The article says: File this one under “holy crap,” but scientists at MIT have discovered molecules that spontaneously assemble themselves into a pattern that can turn light into electricity — essentially a self-creating solar panel. In a petri dish.

The researchers set out to create a synthetic process that imitates photosynthesis. Certain molecules respond to light by releasing electrons; the trick was discovering a substance that sticks them together in a consistent structure. Phospholipids do just that, and they also attach themselves to carbon nanotubes, which conduct electricity. With the nanotubes holding the phospholipids in a uniform alignment, the photoreactive molecules are all exposed to light at once, and the tube acts as a wire that then collects the resulting electrical current. The most interesting part is that the tiny solar array can be disassembled and reassembled just by adding chemicals. Spray on an additive and the molecular components break apart into a soup; remove it with a membrane, and the system spontaneously puts itself together.

Tiny nano particles in a petri dish that could change our entire world.

How about a war on bacteria. Here the answer may be in the small stuff as well.

A September 2010 National Geographic article by Christine Dell’Amore entitled “Cockroach Brains May Hold New Antibiotics?” says:  Insects naturally kill deadly MRSA and E. coli bacteria, experiment shows.


A Global economic savior? An American cockroach, as seen in an artist’s rendering. Illustration by Paul M. Breeden, National Geographic

Cockroaches may make your skin crawl, but the insects—or, to be exact, their brains—could one day save your life. That’s because the central nervous systems of American cockroaches produce natural antibiotics that can kill off bacteria often deadly to humans, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and toxic strains of Escherichia coli, scientists said this week.  Two species of locust tested so far also have the same bacteria-killing molecules in their tiny heads. The findings suggest that the insect world—which makes up 80 percent of all animals on Earth—may be teeming with new antibiotics, said study co-author Simon Lee of the University of Nottingham in the U.K.

Such a discovery is crucial, because scientists are scrambling to combat strains of several infectious diseases, including MRSA and E. coli, that are resistant to traditional antibiotics, Lee said.
The scientists found the bugs had antibiotics only in their brain tissue, the most essential part of the body, he added.  A bug might live with an infected leg, for instance, but a brain infection would almost certainly be fatal. Insect-brain drugs for humans are still years away, Lee said, but there’s one hopeful glimmer: When the team added the insect antibiotics to human cells in the lab, there were no toxic effects.

On the subject of bugs, National Geographic also pointed out some small  stuff  that could be huge. In this case the war on hunger could create a huge quantum economic shift and the technology for innovation is already available.

According to the September 9th, 2010 National Geographic, the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working on a policy to promote insects as food worldwide. The article says: Beetles, crickets and many other types are very nutritious. A serving of small grasshoppers has almost the same protein as ground beef. Also, insects can be farmed more cheaply and on much less land. At least a 1,000 species are already part of the human diet. Mexicans liquefy stinkbugs for sauces, Thais deep-fry giant water bugs.

For example, 100 grams of giant water bugs yields 62 calories, 19.8 grams of protein, plus phosphorus, iron, calcium and carbohydrates.

There you have three potential wars… and small stuff that could change the world… in positive and explosively profitable ways.   I have to agree with David Darst in this case. The USA has a huge innovative streak. this is the one nation where failure can be viewed with respect.

Which war… or combinations of wars will change the world? I do not know… yet.  Which small solutions will be huge? I do not know that either.  Which companies will be the winning suppliers of the solutions? That is also still beyond me.

What I do believe is that taking the positive approach is the only one that makes sense…. so watch the problems… the wars and the solutions.  This is where the next huge fortunes will be.


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See more on David Darst’s book The Art of Asset Allocation: Principles and Investment Strategies for Any Market, Second Edition

See more about Jeff Rubin’s book

Read Scientists discover tiny solar panels that create themselves

Cockroach Brains May Hold New Antibiotics?

For Most People, Eating Bugs Is Only Natural