It’s a rare day I meet a new client who is environmentally aware, so Denis comes as a complete surprise. He can’t be much older than me, but he’s travelled to places I can’t spell, assisted on archaeological digs, negotiated wage increases for Thai mill workers, built toilets in Uganda and pi­loted helicopter tours around north west Australia to find a location for a new desalination plant. He’s an expert in green technology and nods enthusi­astically when I tell him I walk to work. It occurs to me, as we discuss our enlightened ways, that comparing ecological footprints is the opposite of comparing the value of your house … and Denis’ is much smaller than mine. He’s an expert on carbon trading and the most effective way to calculate and then offset one’s own emissions. He’s even found a tuna brand that’s more dolphin safe than the one I use – for a second I’m struck with a vision of all the dolphins I’ve inadvertently killed through poor shopping choices.

I can tell Denis is beginning to warm to me, especially when I recount my whale-watching story. Of course, I leave out the part where I was so sea-sick I would have shot a whale in the face if it meant I could be magically transported back to dry land. Fact is, I would have killed all of them. Even photographs of whales make me want to hurl now. But I’m on a roll … I’ve got opinions on everything from solar power to wind farms and geothermal en­ergy. I can’t believe what’s coming out of my mouth and I have to push images of my energy-inefficient light globes and drawers full of plastic shopping bags out of mind.

Denis has come to me to invest, obviously, but only after some ethical screening. He wants his money to go towards green technology, sustainable industries and carbon neutral corporations – com­panies that are “weening industry off the poisoned tit of coal-fuelled operations.” Normally, if a client had environmental aspirations I’d point them in the direction of Orwellian-sounding investments like ‘clean coal’ and nuclear in the hope that they’d seen the evening news and thought it was the safest way to go. Even the most cynical part-time green investors throw away their flimsy principles when I remind them that Australia is sitting on top of 42 percent of the planet’s uranium stores. The amount of cash yet to be made by digging a few mines is enough to make tree-hugging, John Butler-worshipping lesbians wipe out entire tribes of indigenous people personally. I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that Denis can’t be bought.

“I don’t want anything to do with China,” Denis keeps saying. He’s angry that Australia is exporting its iron ore to China and buying it back from them in the form of gas-guzzling cars. I can almost see tears in his eyes when he speculates on the state of the world once every family in China owns a car of their own. It’s amazing that as little as five years ago the majority of people never thought about this stuff. Now they’re painting bicycle lanes green. Can­vas shopping bags are green. George W Bush has even passed a bill that is an environmental disaster named the ‘Clean Air Act’. The message is clear; you can rape the environment, just make sure you paint your car green.

I promise Denis I’ll find him some green investments and he leaves happy. Money used to be bad. Money used to mean corruption. Now, people like Denis are using their cash as a force for social change. This coffee is fair trade, this toilet paper contributes money towards ecological management, and this jacket provides food for poor working families in Ecuador. You can save the world with a credit card and at the same time, save yourself. Denis is trying to save his soul and make money. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to help him. 

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