Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy

Overview

For decades, politicians and business leaders alike told the American public that our most important challenge was growing the economy, and that environmental protection could be left to future generations. Now, in the wake of billions of dollars in costs associated with coastal devastation from Hurricane Sandy, rampant wildfires across the West, and groundwater contamination from reckless drilling, it’s increasingly clear that yesterday’s carefree attitude about the environment has morphed into a fiscal crisis ...

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Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy

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Overview

For decades, politicians and business leaders alike told the American public that our most important challenge was growing the economy, and that environmental protection could be left to future generations. Now, in the wake of billions of dollars in costs associated with coastal devastation from Hurricane Sandy, rampant wildfires across the West, and groundwater contamination from reckless drilling, it’s increasingly clear that yesterday’s carefree attitude about the environment has morphed into a fiscal crisis of epic proportions. Environmental Debt argues that the costs of global warming, extreme weather, pollution, and other forms of “environmental debt” are wreaking havoc on the economy. To combat these trends, author Amy Larkin proposes a new framework for twenty-first century commerce, based on three principles: 1) Pollution can no longer be free; 2) All business decision making and accounting must incorporate the long view; and 3) Government must play a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction. Profiling the multinational corporations that are transforming their operations with downright radical initiatives, Larkin presents smart policy choices that would actually unleash these business solutions to many global financial and environmental problems.

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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)
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

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781137279200
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 8/5/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,097,113
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Larkin is the business advisor for Greenpeace International and the former director of Greenpeace Solutions. She has been featured in various print and broadcast media, and has won multiple awards, including a recent nomination for the United Nations Foundation Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment Award. She is the chair of the Advisory Board of Biomimicry NYC and a strategic advisor to the public policy think tank RESOLVE. She lives in New York City.

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