Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy

Overview

Over a 50-year lifespan, a single tree generates $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,000 worth of soil erosion. Environmental services like these contribute billions of dollars to the global economy every year, yet governments routinely ignore the importance of the natural world when planning economic development. In Environmental Debt, award-winning environmentalist Amy Larkin issues a clarion call for governments, businesses, and consumers to ...

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Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy

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Overview

Over a 50-year lifespan, a single tree generates $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,000 worth of soil erosion. Environmental services like these contribute billions of dollars to the global economy every year, yet governments routinely ignore the importance of the natural world when planning economic development. In Environmental Debt, award-winning environmentalist Amy Larkin issues a clarion call for governments, businesses, and consumers to recalculate the financial contributions of the natural world—and the long-hidden costs of environmental damage. She explores the emerging concept of environmental debt, and the new accounting tools to track it, such as Environmental Profit & Loss Sheets, to show how businesses and governments can use conservation to drive growth by combining three central tenets: 1) take the long view; 2) accept that pollution can no longer be free or subsidized; and 3) policy must play a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction. As companies struggle to strategize in the face of uncertain oil prices and extreme weather, this timely and important book will transform how policymakers, business leaders, and environmentalists think about the future of commerce.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Is corporate America ready for some tough love from Greenpeace? Award-winning environmental activist Larkin, business advisor for Greenpeace International, and former director of Greenpeace Solutions, wants to connect business profitability with the survival of the natural world rather than its destruction. For anyone interested in environmental and economic policy, this is a fascinating, provocative book. Brisk, bold, and blunt, Larkin is a devastating critic of current business practices, but she wants to inspire, not scold. Her profiles in corporate courage include Unilever, which lobbies for stronger government regulation, and Puma, the “ to create an integrated report that converted environmental into monetary terms,” as well as some unlikely heroes, such as McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who inspired the California Solar Initiative with his call for the creation of a million solar roofs in the state by 2016. Some good news: renewable energy is a true job creator. The ultimate renewable energy source Larkin celebrates is the power of thoughtful people with a common goal. In the words of McDonald’s vice-president for corporate responsibility, “Odd couples can add out-of-the-box thinking that leads to innovative win-win scenarios.” Agent: Laura Yorke, Carol Mann Agency. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
A mostly cleareyed look at how taking environmental concerns into account is good business. Greenpeace veteran and environmental activist Larkin tenders a highly optimistic combination of her love for the natural world with an admiration for the dynamism and effectiveness of business, in particular, how to tame the near-unlimited influence of profit to guide our future relationship with the Earth. We must rewire the economy to connect financial and environmental debt, "defined as polluting and/or damaging actions that will cost other parties (people, businesses or governments) real money in the future"--e.g., the effect of global warming spiking the costs of cotton, wheat and soybeans, or the real cost of coal once the various health issues are figured into the equation. Larkin proposes a framework of action she calls "nature means business. Pollution must not be free or subsidized, and government must pay a vital--and even regulatory--role to catalyze technological answers and prevent environmental destruction. The author explores some surprising nexuses between environmental activists and their corporate counterparts--McDonald's, Unilever, Wal-Mart, Tiffany--where forward-thinking executives saw their best interests served by environmental responsibility. Occasionally, Larkin's enthusiasm gets the better of her argument--"Nothing except nature can transform the world as swiftly as can business"--and even the most ardent greenhouse gas advocate appreciates that we do not have enough understanding of climate and meteorology to state that, "Today's extreme weather is caused by greenhouse gas emissions." Such comments undermine her authority, as does her vested interest in biomimicry and the tired cheerleading of such proclamations as, "This is our chance to create a new paradigm." Generally frank and well-meaning but also boosterish and not always tight in its arguments.
From the Publisher
“For anyone interested in environmental and economic policy, this is a fascinating, provocative book. Brisk, bold, and blunt, Larkin is a devastating critic of current business practices, but she wants to inspire, not scold.”—Publishers Weekly

"Environmental Debt expertly connects the two big systems we all depend on — financial and ecological — and shows that they're completely intertwined — one cannot succeed without the other.  Larkin is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap and map out a plan to make both systems stronger.—Andrew Winston, coauthor of Green to Gold

“Humankind’s days of pillaging the earth for its resources are over. Today, a new strategy is needed if the global economy is to survive. Larkin’s three guiding principles for 21st century commerce are required reading for anyone invested in a thriving business landscape as well as a healthy environment.” Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International

"Amy Larkin sounds the alarm of the coming economic crisis and calls for urgent actions to repair our relationship with nature. A committed environmentalist, she also knows firsthand how the business world gets real work done, and argues for pragmatism and common sense to undo environmental harm and re-make the future. As a business person and industrialist my entire career, I support Environmental Debt as part of an inclusive and well-rounded roadmap to make the world a better place."—John Hofmeister, retired President Shell Oil Company, founder/CEO Citizens for Affordable Energy, and author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies

"This book has an important message—pollution is not free. If the polluters do not pay the cost, others do in the form of increases in health costs, loss of property values, higher insurance rates and damages to crops, materials and public infrastructure. As fossil fuel consumption grows, these costs will mount. Regardless of one's political bent or world view, one cannot ignore Amy Larkin's powerful premise that putting a price on pollution—both carbon and conventional—will dramatically accelerate the transition to the cleaner energy systems that our world will need in the decades ahead."—Henry Lee is the Jassim M. Jaidah Family Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program within the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government

"Larkin offers a comprehensive framework to connect the causes of these crises to ensure businesses are not derailed by environmental problems." — The Irish Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781137278555
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/25/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,005,351
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Larkin works with multinational corporations on transformative initiatives through her consulting firm Nature Means Business and serves as Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. She partners with RESOLVE convening discordant parties from business, government, and civil society to revamp public policy so it better serves our 21st-century global economy. For many years, Larkin led Greenpeace Solutions and collaborated on surprising and high-impact corporate technology revolutions for which Greenpeace and several corporations received Harvard’s Roy Award for Public/Private Partnerships that protect natural resources. She is a regular contributor to the Guardian Sustainable Business and the chair of Biomimicry NYC.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface

Chapter One: A Framework for 21st Century Commerce

Chapter Two: Environmental Debt

Chapter Three: The Quest for True Profits

Chapter Four: Courage: High Risk, High Reward

Chapter Five: Moving Beyond Fossil Fuels

Chapter Six: Extreme Weather and the Food/Water/Energy Nexus

Chapter Seven: The Cutting Edge of Innovation

Chapter Eight: Why Don’t We?

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