Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist: ‘We’re trying to buy time for the world to wake up’
You’ve probably never heard of him, and for years Jeremy Grantham liked it that way. But now the man who made billions by predicting every recent financial crisis is speaking out
One icy morning in February, a train pulled into Washington DC. It was loaded with environmentalists planning to handcuff themselves to the gates of the White House, in protest at the building of a 3,500km oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Amid the hundreds of placard-carrying protesters stood a somewhat incongruous figure in a suit – Jeremy Grantham, a 74-year-old fund manager. “What we are trying to do is buy time,” he told reporters. “Buy time for the world to wake up.”
Grantham – who occupies a legendary place in the world of finance for predicting all the major stock market bubbles of recent decades (and doing very well in the process) – had decided, after 15 years of low-key environmental philanthropy, to, as he puts it, “walk the walk”.
“I was committed to getting arrested,” says Grantham, a tall, slight man, as he looks out across the City from his London office on the 15th floor of a glass-and-steel tower next to the Bank of England. He speaks machine gun-quickly in a soft, mid-Atlantic accent. “But the day before [the protest] my wife checked with the lawyer, who said, ‘Don’t do that!'” It turned out that being arrested would give him serious problems when it came to travelling.
“I’ve had a green card since completing my MBA at Harvard in 1964.”
Grantham, co-founder and chief strategist of GMO, a Boston-based global investment group, manages $106bn (£69bn) of assets on behalf of 1,000 institutional investors, and employs 600 people, so he decided that the fallout would be too great. He was forced to stand back and watch as his daughter Isabel got arrested, alongside the actor Daryl Hannah, the US’s highest-profile environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Nasa climate scientist James Hansen.
So he is speaking out instead. From where he stands, this bubble, the “carbon bubble”, is the biggest he’s seen. “We’re already in a bad place. The worst accidents are [only] 20, 30, 40 years from now.” Such apocalyptic talk is often the preserve of deep-green doom-mongers – the kind of talk that has led many to reject environmentalism. But Grantham insists he’s guided “by the facts alone”. On some issues (immigration and education) he “would be considered rightwing”, but with the environment, he says he calls it as he sees it. He is disdainful of those who ignore the data, or worse, misinform the public.
To read the full article, please click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/12/jeremy-grantham-environmental-philanthropist-interview
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