Anyone tired of lousy news from the markets should talk to Douglas Lloyd, director of Venture Business Research, a company that tracks trends in venture capitalism.
"I expect investment activity in this sector to remain buoyant," he said recently. His bouncy mood was inspired by the money gushing into private security and defence companies. He added, " I also see this as a more attractive sector, as many do, than clean energy."
Got that? If you are looking for a sure bet in a new growth market in the U.S., sell solar, buy surveillance; forget wind, buy weapons.
This observation deserves particular attention in the run-up to the UN climate change conference in Bali that began this week. From December 3 to 14, world environment ministers are supposed to come up with the global pact that will replace Kyoto.
The administrations of George W. Bush and Stephen Harper, still roadblocking firm caps on emissions, want to let the market solve the crisis.
The idea that capitalism can save us from climate catastrophe has powerful appeal. It gives politicians an excuse to subsidize rather than regulate corporations, and it neatly avoids a discussion about how the core market logic of endless growth landed us here in the first place.
The market, however, appears to have other ideas.
According to Lloyd, despite all the government incentives, the really big money is turning away from clean energy technologies and banking instead on gadgets promising to seal wealthy countries and individuals into high-tech fortresses.
Key growth areas in venture capitalism are private security firms selling surveillance gear and privatized emergency response. Put simply, in the world of venture capitalism, there has been a race going on between greens on the one hand and guns and garrisons on the other - and the guns are winning.
According to Venture Business Research, in 2006 North American and European companies developing green technology and those focused on "homeland security" and weaponry were neck and neck in the contest for new investment.
But this year garrisons have suddenly leapt ahead. This trend has nothing to do with real supply and demand, since the demand for clean energy tech could not be higher.
A new Oxfam report makes it clear that the recent wave of natural disasters is no fluke: over the past two decades, the number of extreme weather events has quadrupled. Conversely, 2007 has seen no major terrorist events in North America or Europe, there are hints of a U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq, and, despite the relentless propaganda, there is no imminent threat from Iran.
So why is "homeland security," not green energy, the hot new sector in the U.S.? Perhaps because there are two distinct business models that can respond to our climate and energy crisis.
We can develop policies and technologies to get us off this disastrous course.
Or we can develop policies and technologies to protect us from those we have enraged through resource wars and displaced through climate change, while simultaneously shielding ourselves from the worst of both war and weather.
In short, we can choose to fix, or we can choose to fortress. Environmental activists and scientists have been yelling for the fix. The homeland security sector, on the other hand, believes the future lies in fortresses.
Though 9/11 launched this new economy, many of the original counterterrorism technologies are being retrofitted as privatized emergency response during natural disasters.
By far the biggest market is the fortressing of Europe and North America - Halliburton's contract to build detention centres in the U.S. for an unspecified immigration influx, Boeing's "virtual" border fence, biometric ID cards.
The primary target for these technologies is not terrorists but immigrants, an increasing number of whom have been displaced by extreme weather events like the recent floods in Tabasco, Mexico, or the cyclone in Bangladesh. As climate change creates more landlessness, the market in fortresses will increase dramatically.
Of course, there is still money to be made from going green; but there is much more green - at least in the short term - to be made from selling escape and protection. As Lloyd explains, "The failure rate of security businesses is much lower than clean-tech ones.' In other words, solving real problems is hard, but turning a profit from those problems is easy.
Well, the market has spoken: it will not take us off this disastrous course. In fact, the smart money is betting that we will stay on it.