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Natural Capitalism: Creating The Next Industrial Revolution

by Paul Hawken

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In Natural Capitalism, three top strategists show how leading-edge companies are practicing "a new type of industrialism" that is more efficient and profitable while saving the environment and creating jobs. Paul Hawken and Amory and Hunter Lovins write that in the next century, cars will get 200 miles per gallon without compromising safety and power, manufacturers will relentlessly recycle their products, and the world's standard of living will jump without further damaging natural resources. "Is this the vision of a utopia? In fact, the changes described here could come about in the decades to come as the result of economic and technological trends already in place," the authors write.

They call their approach natural capitalism because it's based on the principle that business can be good for the environment. For instance, Interface of Atlanta doubled revenues and employment and tripled profits by creating an environmentally friendly system of recycling floor coverings for businesses. The authors also describe how the next generation of cars is closer than we might think. Manufacturers are already perfecting vehicles that are ultralight, aerodynamic, and fueled by hybrid gas-electric systems. If natural capitalism continues to blossom, so much money and resources will be saved that societies will be able to focus on issues such as housing, contend Hawken, author of a book and PBS series called Growing a Business, and the Lovinses, who cofounded and directed the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental think tank. The book is a fascinating and provocative read for public-policy makers, as well as environmentalists and capitalists alike. --Dan Ring

From Publishers Weekly
Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce) and Amory and Hunter Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental think tank, have put together an ambitious, visionary monster of a book advocating "natural capitalism." The short answer to the logical question (What is natural capitalism?) is that it is a way of thinking that seeks to apply market principles to all sources of material value, most importantly natural resources. The authors have two related goals: first, to show the vast array of ecologically smart options available to businesses; second, to argue that it is possible for society and industry to adopt them. Hawken and the Lovinses acknowledge such barriers as the high initial costs of some techniques, lack of knowledge of alternatives, entrenched ways of thinking and other cultural factors. In looking at options for transportation (including the development of ultralight, electricity-powered automobiles), energy use, building design, and waste reduction and disposal, the book's reach is phenomenal. It belongs to the galvanizing tradition of Frances Moore Lapp?'s Diet for a Small Planet and Stewart Brand's The Whole Earth Catalog. Whether all that the authors have organized and presented so earnestly here can be assimilated and acted on by the people who run the world is open to question. But readers with a capacity for judicious browsing and grazing can surely learn enough in these pages to apply well-reasoned pressure. Charts and graphs, with accompanying CD-ROM. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Hawken is the author of The Ecology of Commerce (1993) and is best known for his PBS series Growing a Business. Amory and Hunter Lovins founded the Rocky Mountain Institute, which promotes efficient resource use, and Amory has been called the "godfather" of alternative energy. The three have joined forces here to set a blueprint for sustainable development. The authors argue that it is possible for companies to reduce energy and materials consumption by up to 90 percent but still increase profits, production, and employment. They outline the four strategies that underlie "natural capitalism" and, using hypercars and neighborhood land use and superefficient buildings as examples, show how these strategies are being applied. They also identify ways resources are being wasted and explain the principles of "resource productivity." Throughout their book, the authors indicate new business opportunities that will be created by practicing "natural capitalism." Accompanying the book will be a CD composed of "KnowledgeMaps," which will be "visual, interactive conceptual models" that complement the material in each chapter and include hyperlinks to relevant sites on the Internet. David Rouse

From Kirkus Reviews
A critique of the present economic system and its destructive effects on natural assets, coupled with ideas about how to make it work better. The Lovinses, directors of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a resource policy center, and business author Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce, 1993, etc.) merge their talents and experiences here to offer practical guidelines for reducing the environmental messes made by the industrial world, including pollution, transportation congestion, erosion, and wasted energy of all types. While suggesting solutions, however, they use a good deal of space to attack both contemporary enterprises and those dating to the Industrial Revolution. Targets include specific technologies, corporations, and general business practices, as well as wasteful consumer habits. The aluminum can, for example, is examined in particular detail, from ore mines to assembly lines. Capitalism as an economic system is criticized as a financially profitable, nonsustainable aberration in human development.'' Also attracting debate is the free market, vilified as one of the forces causing waste and pollution. This seems unfair, since the same system is an underlying aspect of the solutions cited throughout the book. Rather than abandon capitalism altogether, the authors argue for modification, yielding what they call ``natural capitalism.'' This could mean, for example, assigning value to electricity that is unused, what they call ``negawatts.'' They offer detailed explanations of ideas that yield positive resultsi.e., reduced energy usage in a mechanical appliancebut fail to provide a step-by-step plan of action for broader applications. The book nonetheless yields unique value as a broad collection of intriguing ideas that work and compelling pleas for the benefit they bring: increased profits. Despite their unease with the present economic system, the authors ultimately favor individual responsibility and local and entrepreneurial initiatives for solving environmental problems. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Publisher's Weekly
"...an ambitious, visionary, monster book.....the book's reach is phenonmenal."

Book Description
Now in paperback: the groundbreaking book that reveals how todays global businesses can be both environmentally responsible and highly profitable. Embraced by business and political leaders as well as economists and environmentalists around the globe, this revolutionary work has all the makings of a classic. As Publishers Weekly put it: Natural Capitalism belongs to the galvanizing tradition of Diet for a Small Planet and The Whole Earth Catalog.



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