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Natural Capitalism
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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

In this groundbreaking paradigm for the economy, three leading business visionaries explain how the world is on the verge of a new industrial revolution, one that promises to transform our fundamental notions about commerce and its role in shaping our future.

Customer Reviews:

  • Excellent environmental analysis, clear direction!
    This book provides a wealth of environmental analysis, including well-considered advice for policymakers at every level (from federal down to county). Also there is solid information for residential/condominium owners. The section that describes and designs how low-end residential units can sell energy back to the grid and raise their standard of living was exceptionally well-written. I am still reading the rest of the book and have not stopped since I first picked it up....more info
  • Important for everybody
    This book provides a way of living that would shape the world into a simply better place to be. It offers ways of thinking about efficiency that everyone could use in their lives. ...more info
  • The question is what kind of natural capitalism
    This book provides an inspiring catalog of the many ways that entrepreneurs have turned the scarcity of natural resources and threats to the environment into successful business advantages. There are endless examples of how people have achieved success reducing energy use and waste, creating technologies to create clean water, more natural building materials and urban designs, and healthier food, to name just a few. If you're turned off by the amorality of business in the 1990s and the idea of growth at whatever price, this book can help instill faith in the resorative potential of business. As such, it's a good introduction to sustainability.

    The book's weakness is that it implies that with a little greening here you can have it all. It's long on the "natural" but very short on considering what kind of capitalism will be necessary to make our economy truly sustainable. As co-author Paul Hawken admitted in the introduction of an earlier book ("The Ecology of Commerce"), almost no business presently operating is truly sustainable. As economist Herman Daly has pointed out, even with increased resource efficiency, northern nations still consume too many resources too inefficiently for the world to accept much more growth, a sobering thought as China begins to gear up its automotive industry. To be sustainable, we will have to accept that the world economy must live within limits, which represents a true change of paradigm and not the incremental improvement that Natural Capitalism implies is sufficient. Without accepting such limits, many of the good ideas presented in this book (such as fuel cells, lightweight vehicles made of kevlar or other materials, to name just two examples) will likely remain uneconomical and unutilized....more info

  • A Real New World Order...
    "It doesn't have to be this way..."

    For too long, our western industrial culture has equated sheer numbers, whether dollars, cans of soda or tons of trash, with growth. The concept of growth based only on labor productivity and dollars moved has lead us to our current degraded environmental and social conditions. The perverse accounting behind this scheme allows the government to actually subsidize wasteful practices and encourages industries to turn their backs on innovation and improvement.

    The authors offer here an alternative that is at once eminently practical and thoroughly visionary. However, this work does not make the liberal's usual cry for increased command and control regulation by government. Rather, it argues for decreased regulation, the elimination of the above-mentioned subsidies and an honest accounting of the true costs of production that include the value of degraded natural and social systems. Such new practices, which are oriented toward a truly free market, would force producers to increase resource, rather than labor, efficiency, which would, in turn, result in increased employment, greater innovation and healthier ecosystems.

    Should the reader be overly skeptical, the authors share many examples of companies who are "doing well by doing good," that is, being commercially successful while at the same time improving the quality of life for all natural systems, both human and non-human.

    This, along with Hawken's earlier The Ecology of Commerce, as well as Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester R. Brown are highly recommended as primers on a new vision for the future....more info

  • The Redemption of Capitalism Possible? Yes!
    This is a statement of hope and demonstration that capitalism can find a conscience and become aware of the benefits of an environmental and humanitarian understanding of life on Earth and the subsequent benefits in doing the enviro-friendly, humanitarian right thing in all it's affairs.

    As demonstrated by the many companies that have opened-up to sustainable, regenerative, and fair business practices- many of them examined here in detail, the monetary and social benefits of good planetary conduct is heartwarming. I will be more than happy to revisit my historical indictment of the selfish "Capitalist Pigs" as I see more positive change and this book is proof that this can and is being accomplished.

    I am an entrenched skeptic of current capitalist endeavors do to the basic definition of capitalism which is a private, self-interest affair and by that basic operating agenda, it is hard to see any positive changes in the current predatory, polluting business climate. However, "Natural Capitalism" has paved the way for private enterprise to be guided into a more democratic benefit to society.

    Indeed, the very sound of "private enterprise" harkens of self-interest, elitist, go-it-alone and nefarious doings outside of the Public's benefit, it's needs or interest. And overtones of immature, competitive "us vs. them" mentality that despises any fair-trade or environmental regulation indicts this whole affair as untenable in a civilized world.

    On pages 10-11, the basic premises of natural capitalism are delineated in "...four central strategies..." "...that are a means to enable countries, companies and communities to operate by behaving as if all forms of capital were valued." These are guidelines for: 1)
    "Radical Resource Productivity." i.e., proper resource accountability and waste disposal converted to recycling and reuse. 2) "Biomimicry- ...eliminating the very idea of waste-...". Nature sustains life by recycling and reuse of all resources. 13) "Service and Flow Economy." "Closed-loop" relationship between producer, consumer and ecosystems. And, 4) "Investing In Natural Capital." Investment in natural capital for a sustaining, regenerating flow of natural resources.

    "All four changes are interrelated and interdependent; all four generate numerous benefits and opportunities in markets, finance, materials, distribution, and employment. Together they can reduce environmental harm, create economic growth, and increase meaningful employment.".

    "What would our economy look like if it fully valued ALL forms of capital, including human and natural capital?" (p 9). Indeed, knowing one's interconnectivity to all life is a good starting point and should dictate our every transaction with life. On the same page is a bulleted list of concepts to consider under "Capitalism As If Living Systems Mattered" starting with "The environment is not a minor factor of production but rather is an envelope containing, provisioning, and sustaining the entire economy."- Daly 1977.

    All of the bad habits of contemporary business practices are well delineated, but more importantly, the focus is centered on models for change and this isn't just business, the "Natural Capitalism" covers our personal habits and the larger society with demonstrations of existing waste mitigation and recycling for substantial environmental and monetary savings.

    An unfortunate, but intentionally over-looked aspect of contemporary predatory business practices is to not take into account the un-paid for natural and irreplaceable resources (natural capital) along with the pollution left behind from industrial manufacturing processes and as biologist Peter Raven is quoted as saying on page 156, [... ecosystem services are not merely "a series of factors lying on the side of industrial processes, which added up could cause trouble, but rather an expression of the functioning of a healthy Earth... [W]e're disrupting that functioning to an incredible degree".

    In his book "The Great Work ", Thomas Berry, also the author of the beautiful "The Dream of the Earth", chastises corporate society for it's selfish/ruthless/ parasitic/predatory/polluting business practices, yet lays out a plan for redemption for which "Natural Capitalism" spells it out in much greater detail. A call for an international code of business conduct is suggested and outlined and hopefully , this book will serve as a compelling argument for all business to learn the benefits of clean business practices.

    Otherwise, as the ancient Chinese Proverb states: "If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed".- From Duane Elgin's book "Promise Ahead".

    Shark frenzies have no winners and the "dog eat dog" world of contemporary business best be served by realizing that what goes around, comes around- Karma, 101.

    Indeed, corporate society will profit by this book if it embraces the ideas presented here and we can then take the "pig" out capitalist.

    For those who think my far-less-than enthusiastic appraisal of capitalism is too harsh, might want to see what the well researched "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power" by Joel Bakan has to say. Here, capitalism is laid wide-open for all to see it in it's narrowly focused agenda of self aggrandizement and lack of social and environmental ethics and responsibility.

    Chapter 3 starts with a fairly compact, no-nonsense over-view of current corporate structure and it`s deleterious side-effects. "As a psychopathic creature, the corporation can neither recognize nor act upon moral reasons to refrain from harming others. Nothing in it's legal makeup limits what it can do to others in pursuit of it's selfish ends, and it is compelled to cause harm when the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs. Only pragmatic concern for it's own interests and the laws of the land constrain the corporation's predatory instincts, and often that is not enough to stop it from destroying lives, damaging communities and endangering the planet as a whole."

    As with the Lovins and Hawken, Bakan believes there is redemptive hope for the corporate structure's current parasitic, predatory mindset and that is: a top to bottom overhaul of the corporate operating structure. Personally, I would love to see the results of an overhaul more closely mimic non-profit corporate structure which is based on "public benefit" ("public" defined as an all inclusive human AND environmental, interconnected coexistence) and there is no reason why private enterprise should not be required to be a demonstrable, democratic benefit to the public. Otherwise, it is just a private, selfish, entity- oink.

    Corporations have been predatory and non-democratic from their inception, and for another eye-opening demonstration of that, au Americana, one might take in Prof. Noam Chomsky's book "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest For [corporate] Global Dominance". Here is history of corporate structure defectiveness and documented collusion of government/corporate predatory, nefarious schemes.

    Before reading this book, however, pseudo-patriotic flag wavers with weak stomachs for honestly looking in the mirror of corporate America are forewarned that corporate America has some nasty skeletons in it's closet and Chomsky bars no holds in exposing that and that freedom of expression is what makes America free and the envy of all other nations. Critical appraisal is what makes it all work.

    These fine books underscore the need for re-structure of all corporate operating formats to a more humane and civilized existence for the benefit of all life on Earth, anything less is cancerous and ultimately, unsustainable, which ironically, flies in the face of existing corporate structure in that it is required to operate in a fashion that does everything possible to guarantee a continuous flow of income for their shareholders, hence, it would behoove them to take a closer interest in their corporate stock meal-tickets. And one should know that as "Natural Capitalism" conclusively proves, profit need not require an amoral, ruthless operating format.

    This is truly, the beginnings of a more wholistic relationship between society and business- an "operating manual" for doing business on planet Earth. (p 313-14).
    My thanks to the Lovins and Hawken for this monumentally important work!

    ...more info
  • Revolutionary
    If only this book would land in the hands of those that shape our ecomony. It does not really matter though, because the premiss is these changes will happen naturally, and be driven by the market. What a concept, you can be green, and not pay a premium. Genuis!

    ...more info
  • A better way of living
    This book is a little old so some of the infomation is out dated, but the ideas are still radically new for many people. There is a lot to be take from this book on both the micro and macro models, all of which are about creating greater efficiancy in the markets, and lowering the cost to consumers, all the while creating new jobs and reducing pollution. The book tells people how to help reduce their energy costs through simple changes in everday living. It also goes into great detail about market failures, government failures, and the compounding problem of global warming. This book is about the facts no ideological stance, with the authors saying that fossil fuel use is not going to go away anytime soon, but fossil fuels are only one small part of the entire picture. You will not be bored while reading this book, and should be mad after learning how much more money we are spending on goods of lesser quality. ...more info
  • Refreshing Optimism in a Gloom'n'Doom World
    Natural Capitalism is a good, solid read, but it is not a quick read. Each chapter tackles a different aspect of our society that affects the world environment, from air pollution to our water supply to economics to agriculture. The issues are closely examined, and the reader is provided a refreshing update on the great progress we are making, or have the potential to achieve in maximizing efficiency, conserving resources, reducing our waste, and so forth. This book would make a great text for an environmental entrepreneurship class. As the issues are explored, one cannot help but consider all of the opportunity that exists to develop businesses that embrace the concepts of Natural Capitalism, embracing the model that nature has perfected over billions of years. A key point that the book returns to again and again is that our natural environment is a model of efficiency and conservation. There is no waste in the natural world. Also, the book does not suggest abandoning the market-based economy, but rather that we include all factors in our assessment of the true cost of our actions. The current model of economics in the US does not account for natural capital, such as the value of having long term reserves of oil, water, air, trees, etc.

    Read this book if you are an aspiring eco-entrepreneur, a student of economics, or a businessperson in virtually any field....more info

  • Green Hope High Students Read Natural Capitalism for APES
    Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, discusses how the current capitalist system will evolve into a more environmentaly friendly system. In this new system, it will actually be profitable for businesses to consider the environment. This book is highly recommended as a parallel aid and learning tool to Miller's Living in the Environment, the textbook used in A.P. Environmental Science. Natural Capitalsim incorporate elements from the textbook and applies it towards capitalism. This book is very dry, however, and vary factual. It is not recomended for someone that likes books that incorparate facts and information in a story format....more info
  • A more complete view of the economy
    This book shows how our current view of the environment is flawed. It brings us from viewing the environment as something too vast to be harmed, to understanding that technology has given humanity the ability to profoundly affect the environment. The book presents a good argument as to why we need to see nature as part of the economic cycle and factor its use into how we use and manage the earth's resources....more info
  • A new look at an old economic theory
    It is not jobs versus the environment. The authors show how in the long term harming the environment costs us money.

    Who would have known that using the cheapest wires for your house or a factory may be cheap in the short run but they cause us to waste electricity. And wasted electricity means higher costs to the user and to the environment!

    I wish every environmentalist would read this book. We do not have to use socialist regulations to protect the environment, it can be done through using the free market. All we need is a paradigm shift for the engineers and managers of the world....more info

  • Excellent book!
    Although one might not completely agree with all of the ideas and concepts discussed in the book, it is a wonderful read for those who are both environmentally conscious and business world-savvy. As a treehugging bean-counter, I absolutely enjoyed "Natural Capitalism". ...more info
  • Save the Earth and Make Money Doing It!
    Natural Capitalism is the next big thing...or should be at least. Authors Paul Hawken and the Lovins make a very practical argument for the new order of capitalism across the globe. This is not just another "either/or" book which tells of our current capitalistic debacle in the world and how dismantling big business is the only way to save it, it is exactly as the title describes: the best of both capitalistic and environmental worlds. The authors give very practical ideas, and more importantly, actual practices in what has been coined Natural Capitalism: the very real idea that one can, not only recover our failing ecology, but actually make a profit doing it.

    This should be mandatory reading for any CEO as the book suggests, but it is equally important for the "average" citizen of the world. It provides a fresh new outlook on what really can take place, and what really must. This book is not another doomsday book, it is practicality at its finest combined with realistic ideas that have incubated over the past 30 years since the concept of environmentalism emerged.

    So, don't be fooled by those who just want to save trees or recycle tin cans. This is a proposal for a complete system overhaul; one where everybody wins! Air gets cleaner, the economy goes up, and poverty is diminished. It doesn't get any better than that! (and to those of you thinking this is just another socialist utopia, think again. It is just the opposite; a capitalist's dream)....more info

  • Sustainability is Serious Business
    Full of real examples which demonstrate the value to global economies, the environment, and our well-being, which whole systems, integrated "smart" design can offer if we choose to make bold changes in reshaping the way we do business....more info
  • Natural Capitalism
    Natural Capitalism was a book attacking the business people of the world. The authors go through all the businesses or different industries around the world. They spent the entire book pointing out the inefficiencies of all of the leading industries in the world. Every chapter is filled with examples of very good and efficient places. The authors attack the mind set that change is too difficult because of monetary reasons. They point out that the energy savings alone would pay back for the money that was spent to change. The authors are pushing for people to step outside their traditional box and see the benefits through a little foresight and willingness to change. This book is not a very good book in terms of getting there point across. The authors stress a good point and make good arguments but the way they go about doing it is not good. The book is a collection of stories of people around the world and it gets veyr monotonous. I would only reccomend that people read the first 150 pages of this book becuase it gets very boring afterwards. There are on really new concepts in this book that you couldnt learn in other situations so i do not think this is a great read....more info
  • An important work of our times. Soft Green / Hard Green
    Given the degree to which the reciprocal conflict between economy and ecology is couched in our lives by now, it is surprising how little of a concerted effort exists in terms of a framework to understand the ecological crisis and the fundamental transformation for industrial capitalism, i.e., new business concepts and technological processes that can save the earth. This book offers an important, bold, optimistic framework.

    It sets off quickly by challenging the glaring fallacy of orthodox economics that natural capital is an infinite resource to be used as input for manufacturing and other human activities because nature is "free" except for costs of extracting, transporting, altering it and is also a bottomless pit where the wasted materials can be conveniently dumped. Nowhere in the accounting books of our current businesses do we see any entry for the finite elements of the earth itself: land, air, water, the multitudes of self-sustaining biosystems. This becomes quite startling a discussion when the authors reveal an estimate that in the vast flows of natural materials devoured by the global economy every year, only 3 percent actually end up in products.

    Optimistically (as this whole book is), Hawkens et al then demonstrate with their plethora of real-world case studies and anecdotes that eco-friendly processes are already in place, not just as wishful theory but as a set of successful and even spreading practices.

    One noteworthy example of Natural Capitalism in the book is about the "ecological city" Curitiba, which is located in the Southeastern Brazilian state of Parana and has a population of about 4 million people--the size of Houston or Philadelphia. There, "responsible government in partnership with vital entrepenurship has succeeded better than most cities in the U.S." They have implemented "hundreds of multipurpose, cheap, fast, simple homegrown, people-centered initiatives...treating all its citizens--most of all its children--not as burden but as most precious resource". This is a good testimony to how these new approaches to production and consumption can in fact be used to redefine socio-economic life, not out of noblesse oblige but because they deliver dramatic cost-saving efficiencies to the bottom line, that is, higher rates of return for capital.

    However, Hawkens et al take what is perhaps a "Soft Green" approach compared to Peter Huber's "Hard Green" (ISBN: 0465031137), who defines Soft proponents as supporters of micro-management and future forecasting by computer-based models. Hard resources, such as coal and oil, represent cheap but nonrenewable energy sources, while "Soft" refers to such expensive, alternative, and renewable energy sources as wind and solar power.

    Natural Capitalism endorses the outcome of market processes and credit the Industrial Revolution with increasing real wages, raising standards of living, and expanding the productivity of labor 200 fold! Ultimately, dematerialization and prosperity have prevailed over the early negative effects of industrialization. In wealthy, highly modernized nations, pollution and waste have been significantly decreased, with some types even eliminated. The criticism of Hawken et al. concerning the market process (one that free-market environmentalists are willing to concede) is that for-profit ventures only account for what is on the ledger, with the end result being a loss of capital. Thus, Natural Capitalism offers strategies and examples of success that empower people to behave "as if all forms of capital were valued".

    Huber on the other hand clearly prefers solutions from technology and market processes. "To Hard Green minds...ecological objectives are effectively advanced only by dispersed control, free markets, and traditional ethics". Above all, he promotes wealth as the cure of environmental insensitivity and physical damage grounded in his belief that technology and market coordination will foster prosperity, dematerialization, and enhanced environmental awareness, but he dismisses alternative approaches as wasteful.

    Despite many differences, Natural Capitalism and Hard Green share an adulation of innovative economic solutions and implicitly acknowledge environmental quality to be a superior good. New approaches are bound to exasperate some and excite others but both these books pose an intelligent challenge to lazy assumptions on both sides of the political divide and ought to jump-start a reinvigorated environmental debate.

    Either way, this is a valuable purchase for just about anyone involved in business or policy making. But a sincere reader would consider tempering this book with Peter Huber's work as well....more info

  • Great Solutions
    Having just graduated from an Ivy League business school and reading Natural Capitalism, I was shocked this book was not part of the required reading at my school. It represents the next iteration in thinking about economics, specifically to think of the earth as not just a valuable and limited resource, but as a willing cocreator of a positive future. The examples ranging from real estate to factory production to product design to urban planning all highlighted a way of thinking not necessarily akin to wealth creation so much as they provided a context to apply multilateral thinking to business problem solving. For the cold hard facts on how to evolve our economy into one which makes more sense, please pick up a copy of this book.

    However, this book is only part of the story. In addition to progressive economics and systems thinking, we also need next generation leaders who care enough to go this extra mile. Natural Capitalism does an excellent job of outlining the path and reasons to think differently, however it stops short on how we find the people to take this initiative. For this I recommend, Are You Ready to Succeed? by Srikumar Rao. Throughout this journey Dr. Rao evolves present day capitalists into the leaders of the future, full of purpose, drive and creativity. Are You Ready to Succeed and Natural Capitalism are a natural fit as one develops the human qualities required for the future and the other lays out the road map....more info
  • Great solutions to in-depth problems
    I've only read the first two chapters, but its very motivating. The authors creatively give solutions to the environmental problems of the world. They fully understand the problems at hand, analyze them completely and give valuable ideas for probably and realistic solutions....more info
  • The next industrial revolution is Natural Capitalism
    This book is what it proclaims to introduction into the idea that the next industrial revolution will be capitalizing on nature. A must read for those in the environmental sector and a should read for others....more info
  • an optimistic vision of the future
    I am about halfway through this now and I find the book very engaging and not difficult to read. I do agree that the current edition is dated.

    Kyoto costs too much? 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 is a pipe dream? This book will go a long way to persuading you that we will meet that target and more before 2050 and *make* money. The compelling question is - why aren't we further along in making the changes needed?...more info
  • Great for Green Building...
    this is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about sustainable building practices and how they can affect your bottom line. I recommend it for architects, designers and developers alike. ...more info
  • Critical retraining for all citizens
    Explains clearly the unsustainability of our present economies and practices which will surely lead us to extinction.
    Give the basics and many examples of economies based on the permanent natural cycles that are key to survival of us and innumerable the species we effect.
    No hair-shirt renunciation of progress here; technology redesigned on renewable resources is envisioned in detail.
    Ground breaking, widely influencial. Buy three for your friends....more info
  • Amazing book
    One of the best, most interesting and informative books I've ever read. Anyone looking to read about the countless opportunities to improve our environment should read this book. You'll learn how you, every citizen, every business, and every government can make a change for the better...both environmentally and economically. This book doesn't get partisan politically and is not a downer saying that the sky is falling and we're all doomed. It does point out the many problems that we have brought on ourselves, but most of the book is spent explaining how we can all work together to reverse those problems. Concrete solutions are provided as well as detailed explanations as to how to achieve those solutions and how/why they benefit the economy as well as the environment. The book may be 10 years old, but it seems brand new since so little of its advice has been implemented as a result of, amongst other things, the severe irresponsibility that came from our leadership in D.C. over much of the past decade. This book should be required reading for every citizen, business person and politician (although, since it's not a quick, easy read, some readers will require patience and a dictionary). ...more info
  • Reinvention
    I read Paul Hawken's book "The Ecology of Commerce" first. It was so good I decided to read this one too. It's just as good.

    The name of the book describes what it is about very well. In a sense capitalism is unnatural because it is unsustainable. In contrast Natural Capitalism is when business interests work in concert with social interests and natural systems so that all three sustain each other.

    Natural Capitalism is easy to read and is essentially optimistic. It discusses broad strategies for sustainability as it relates to the activities of businesses and their products and services. It also gives many examples of how these strategies can be implemented so we can see Natural Capitalism in action.

    By and large this book is even more relevant now as when it was first published in 1999. I applaud the writers for saying some tough things that need to be said and for showing real, proven solutions instead of just talking about problems and theories. Very refreshing!
    ...more info
  • 10 Years After, There's Definitely Hype, But Good Ideas Too
    Borrowed from the library the hardcover edition that was published back in 1998 or 1999. Reading the book now one can that there's a great deal of hype/hucksterism in this book. Some examples are the buildings that at the time of publication he said would be built at universities in England and Idaho. The great thing about Mr. Lovins, et alia is they assiduously footnote their statements. So when I read that these universities were building buildings that would be heated in winter and cooled in summer solely through their design virtue, requiring no additional energy I was excited and went online to view these buildings. 10 years on and neither has been built! It makes me wonder if their claim that the Rocky Mtn Inst. building is heated and cooled solely through its design is also true. Nonetheless, I'm actually a fan of Lovins as I think it's important to engage in some forward thinking and to think in terms of reducing costs (or increasing costs) in environmentally beneficial ways. It's pretty shortsighted in my view to damage the ability of nature to support life on the planet to save on the costs of a light bulb. Mr Lovins and the others are on solid ground when they raise this perspective. As those two unbuilt buildings show, however, it's going to require real determination to get us further along the path that's cleaned up much of our air and water in the USA from what had been their state in the '60s. More to do though, more to do. This book at least makes you feel that it's doable....more info
  • An Optimistic View of the Upcoming Industrial Revolution
    Paul Hawken's Natural Capitalism is an optimistic blueprint for the upcoming industrial revolution. Emphasizing on increasing efficiency, reducing waste, and restructuring the economy upon service and flow, Hawken demonstrates how 'thinking green' can increase the bottom line as well as gain productivity, profits, and a healthier working environment.
    More idealistic than regular economic theory, Hawken is quick to tout the benefits more than demonstrate means of execution for various situations. As Natural Capitalism progresses, Hawken loses focus of the business aspect as gravitates to general environment concerns such as the importance of water and the danger of global warming. There is also so much statistics one can take before they lose their effect. The Curitiba example at the end is the best thing in the later chapters.
    Ultimately, Natural Capitalism projects progressive and intriguing ideas that can successfully form a powerful truce between environmental and business concerns....more info
  • Not much original work here
    Angel's Nest, near Taos New Mexico, is a completely self-contained living environment: there are no utility lines or pipes coming in to the house. It collects its energy from photovoltaic panels and wind generators, and the household water supply comes from a roof that is designed to direct snow and rainfall into a cistern. But there are also no sewer pipes leaving the building since the water is filtered and used four times: first, for drinking and washing water, then to irrigate the grey water "rainforest" inside the house, then as toilet feed stock, then to irrigate the black water rainforest in the outermost ring of the house. Offending odors and dangerous organisms are safely and effectively removed by manmade filtration working in conjunction with the natural filtration capacity of the rain forests. As a side benefit, the rainforests produce fresh fruit, spices, and oxygen. Effective use of the two exterior greenhouse layers and passive solar methods means that the house can be kept comfortable in the winter and the summer in this high desert area known for its nearby ski resort.

    The house is a great example of the principles described in Natural Capitalism, a book written jointly by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins in 1992. The name, Natural Capitalism, or "NatCap", has several meanings. Amory Lovins is best known for his argument that the least expensive and most sustainable approach is to conserve energy rather than try to produce more. NatCap argues that the production of "negawatts" (energy use avoided, as opposed to megawatts of energy produced) is not only less expensive, it is profitable. Another meaning of Natural Capitalism is a reference to the productive capacity of natural systems. In the same way that artificial capital (buildings and machines) are used to build cars and refrigerators, natural capital produces clean water, clean air, food, and fiber for clothing and housing. In the same way that you would not fail to maintain industrial capital, they argue that we should try to account for and maintain natural capital.

    The book's ideas revolve around four main principles: radically improve resource productivity, biomimicry, service and flow, and reinvestment in natural capital. These are offered without argument as to why these and no other principles were used. The authors argue that by simultaneously doubling production efficiency and conservation (for example, by using more efficient heaters and more insulation), resource productivity can be quadrupled. Angel's Nest uses almost no energy to heat or cool because of passive principles. Biomimicry seems to be the principle that every waste product (dead thing) is the input (food) for another process. Rather than piping clean water in and waste water out, Angel's Nest uses rainwater four times in closed loops before it finally becomes part of a fruit tree. The chapter on service and flow is largely (and explicitly) paraphrased from the lean manufacturing book, Lean Thinking (Womack and Jones), but they also emphasize business models in which services rather than products are sold; for example, by leasing rather than selling photocopiers. Finally, they briefly touch on the idea that natural systems should be restored, but this is not emphasized.

    For traditional environmentalists, much of this book is going to be too idealistic, since it does argue that capitalism should be embraced and harnessed rather than fought. For classical liberals (libertarians), there isn't anything new here. I expected to find something akin to Anderson and Leal's Free Market Environmentalism, but there is very little discussion of natural resource economics, endangered species, or property rights issues. Instead, the book focuses on improving industrial and commercial processes and products and improving household efficiency. Like CEO's need to be told that they need to be more efficient! The chapters which discuss existing applications and best practices are reminiscent of similar anecdotes in Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource, a book reviled by environmentalists.

    If there is one difference between NatCap and Simon's work, it is that economists are repeatedly and (nearly) consistently regarded with contempt in NatCap; the exception are the economists they quote to support their points. NatCap argues that the "bad" economists, who are never named, only count dollars input and output, that they measure efficiency by cost, and that they don't understand or even like the real world. One chapter is dedicated to proving that market solutions cannot be trusted because market failures exist. This is bizarre for two reasons: first, the rest of the book argues that conservation is both practical and profitable and therefore will work in a market economy without reference to market failures, and second, that the market failures discussed are all the result of work done by ... economists! The anonymous economists in NatCap are a dangerous or na?ve caricature of real world economists, and the authors have a child's view of economists and their work. The value of this book is in its potential proselytization of radical environmentalists to embrace rather than to oppose market-based solutions to environmental problems, not in its theoretical or empirical content, its discussion of economic principles, or its pro-market stance.

    (...)...more info
  • Natural Capitalism - China's Future | America's ???
    Just this morning I was watching Cashin' In on Fox News. One hot topic was how Oil / Energy prices not only affect gas prices, but ripple across the entire economy - creating potentially deadly inflation. The fact is, our oil addiction is 1) consuming non-renewable resources, and 2) polluting the air, water, and land all around us. This cannot continue for long without irreversible effects on the world.

    Fortunately change is in the air and Natural Capitalism points out that "a new type of industrialism" will not only save the environment, it will be more efficient - creating profits and jobs. Although many of the authors' visions seem utopian, I'm led to believe they will in fact come true. Consider China, faced with serious environmental problems and otherwise unsustainable growth, is embarking on a Circle of Life endeavor to create environmental programs to process and full recycle products/ by-products from cradle to grave - and all over again in an infinite circle.

    Natural Capitalism sweeps across the entire environmental spectrum. The authors present a compelling case for saving the environment and continued economic progress. Using radically less material and energy will pose new competitive advantages that will leave otherwise clueless competitors far behind.

    In the spirit of unleashing innovation, the authors attack the status quo mindset. Change won't happen because of economic fundamentals - wrong. Change will happen because of economic reasons. In many cases, energy savings alone justify investing in creating sustainable products and using sustainable energy sources.

    Pollution is one factor affecting the health of billions world-wide. Natural Capitalism is an opportunity area that's picking up speed. The question is - when will it be too late. You need to strike while the iron is hot - and it's hot right now.

    Michael Davis - Editor, Byvation...more info
  • A brilliant and practical guide to a sustainable future.
    This is one of the most important and valuable books I have read. Paul Hawken and Amory and Hunter Lovins have achieved a stunning feat. They show how the principles of a free market, plus a systemic understanding and valuing of natural and social capital, and the principles of 'lean thinking' can produce a 'natural capitalism' that will ensure ecological and social sustainability into the future, while building and spreading economic prosperity.

    The authors demonstrate the huge opportunities that flow from using the market mechanism as it should be used, which requires that it operate within a framework of whole systems thinking and clarity about societal and environmental goals. In doing so, they sidestep much of the sterile argument between 'free marketers', 'environmentalists' and 'social activists' by demonstrating how the best principles of each can be synthesized into a coherent system.

    As well as being a well-argued case for change, it is loaded with ideas and examples of radical improvements in efficiency, sustainability and profitability. The book has a series of relatively short statements of principle about the opportunities to operate in ways that are less wasteful, more environmentally friendly and better adapted to human needs. Each is followed by extended case studies to demonstrate that each principle is already in or entering the realm of practice. The examples cover transport, industry, town planning, domestic architecture and other arenas and are a treasure house of ideas for social activists and entrepreneurs alike.

    The book is organized to show that:

    * the contribution of natural capital - air, water, forests, recycling services and so on - to our health, wealth and happiness is not acknowledged by conventional economics. If its outputs were valued and the value capitalised, that value dwarfs industrial capital value and outputs. More to the point, there is no technological way, either known or on the horizon, of substituting for the services that natural capital supplies without charge. We are currently destroying or using up natural capital at an increasing rate and, in the process, producing unintended side effects that further damage natural capital in a vicious cycle. Profound changes in ways of thinking, accompanied by relatively simple changes in governance of society and commerce can redirect the market to work to build natural capital rather than destroying it. The first step is to recognize that natural capital is no longer (if it ever was) a 'free good', but is a scarce resource, to be treated as such
    * technologies for dramatically reducing energy use and associated pollution from fossil fuel are rapidly approaching commercialization. The fuel cell, which uses hydrogen to produce energy plus water plus nothing else is a notable example
    * even with existing proven technologies, the opportunities to reduce sheer waste in the use of energy are not simply incremental, but order of magnitude (the authors cite examples up to 90% of original use), essentially through taking a lateral and systemic approach to finding savings opportunities (using 'the logic of lean thinking'). The costs associated with harvesting these savings are often recovered in six months or less
    * a systemic approach to design is crucial. Upwards of 80% of final capital and operating cost are determined before a brick is laid. The book is full of examples of how better thinking has produced superior end results with savings of over 90% compared with 'conventional' approaches
    * much the same is true of human capital and, in the same way, a good deal of lateral thinking accompanied by some simple commonsense approaches to getting as much value as possible out of as little resource as possible, can produce dramatically better results both for people and the economy
    * for a free market to operate consistently to the benefit of society and protection of sustainability, incentives and boundaries need to be consciously designed so that market operators are rewarded for operating in ways that benefit society. (By extension, the myth of 'the invisible hand' is just that - a comfortable but seriously misleading myth). While the 'free market' and free enterprise system are powerful tools for efficiently meeting economic and often societal goals, they are far from perfect. 'For all their power and vitality, markets are only tools. They make a good servant but a bad master and a worse religion...they can't do everything, and it's a dangerous delusion to...believe they can - especially when they threaten to replace ethics or politics.' At the same time, there are enormous opportunities for achieving economic, environmental and societal goals through well-designed use of market mechanisms (for example trade in sulphur or carbon credits)

    This stunningly good book can be read with profit in a number of ways. For example:
    * entrepreneurs, even those with no interest in wider issues of the economy and society, should read it simply as a treasure house of ideas and examples of ways in which a little ingenuity, some lateral thinking and, above all, a capacity to see systemic relationships can open the door to highly profitable opportunities;
    * managers of established and mature businesses will see major opportunities for cost reduction and profit enhancement - in ways that will also contribute to their broader corporate citizenship;
    * politicians and policy analysts of all persuasions will find opportunities to broaden their thinking, and to find new and better solutions to deep-seated systemic problems;
    * ordinary citizens will find many myths exploded and a clear rationale for action that they can take at a personal, local and national level.

    The lesson of this book with respect to forecasting is simple and clear: No matter what future one believes in, building the principles of natural capitalism into our planning will make the foundations of society firmer. The best option for an uncertain future is the one that leaves most options open....more info
  • Dispelling the dicotomy economic growth vs. environment
    In this influential and extensively researched book, the authors question the validity of the tenets of industrial capitalism, propose a new philosophical framework for a green industrial revolution and present a blueprint for sustainable industrial and agricultural practices. Amory and Hunter Lovins are the founders of the Rocky Mountain Research Institute a resource policy center located in Bolder, CO. The industrial revolution was based on the maximization of capital and human resource productivity, free markets and economy of scale. Such model did not take into account the limiting factor of natural capital and the value of the environmental services provided by nature free of charge. With the accelerating erosion of natural capital and the progressively reduced capacity of nature to provide environmental services (water and air purification, creation of topsoil, flood control, climate control, etc) it is becoming clear that the current industrial model is obsolete and indeed dangerous. The authors propose to factor into the new industrial model the maximization of natural resource productivity and the importance of the environmental services provided by nature. Four key ideas are put forth - biomimicry, radical resource productivity, service and flow economy, investing in natural capital. Biomimicry, the emulation of natural processes, is one of the most promising avenues towards sustainability. Nature has no waste - what is discarded by one organism is used as nutrient by another. Redesigning of industrial processes and clustering of industries along with aggressive recycling practices can lead to a dramatic reduction in industrial waste. Radical resource productivity means doing more with less. The authors explore the Factor 10 resource efficiency improvements now possible with the redesigning of production processes and available technologies. Service and flow economy is based on a shift away from selling products and towards selling of services. The product-selling model favors obsolescence and rapidly increasing landfills, the service-selling model favors product longevity, upgradability and recycling. Investing in natural capital focuses on restoring natural resources and the ability of the earth to provide environmental services. The authors show that sustainable business practices can be compelling form the point of view of profitability.
    ...more info
  • Life Changing
    If you are interested in business and also interested in the environment and the future of our planet, then you should read this book, because it brings these two forces (usually perceived as antipathetic) together in a practical, functional fashion. It is teeming with ideas, and also with hope for the future, and it signposts hundreds of obvious things that anyone in the business community can be doing to protect our natural resources and use them in a more sensible way. It is written by entrepreneurs who do understand the pressures of business but do not accept that the challenges of business survival mean we have to abuse and exploit the relationship of commerce with the environment rather than treating sustainability and conservation as part of the regular business mix. Better still it proves time and again that caring for natural capital will be good for business in the long term, so this is not just an altruistic exercise. Reading this book has had a big impact on me and fellow directors in our own company and we are currently engaged in reshaping some key elements of our business model to incorporate ideas inspired by this book. I would recommend it....more info
  • Decisions Decisions
    Hawken presents many good ideas but those ideas are hard to implement. His views seem to be overly optimistic, and several of his ideas do not have substance.
    The book does present worthy environmental principles which could possibly help solve large environmental problems.
    The last few chapters of the book seemed to be particulary good because they concentrated on human issues....more info