Question for Discussion: According to Hawken, what
are the major economic causes of environmental pollution?
Readings: Hawken, pp. 23-64; "The True Cost of America's Love Affair with the Car"
Video: VHS tape: Green Resources: Hawken Interview;
YouTube: Message from: William McDonough on the Hannover Principles
YouTube: William McDonough: Cradle to cradle design (3:00)
Creating Sustainable Businesses
Creating Pollution and Waste
Daly on Sustainable Economics
Rocky Mountain Institute
Sustainable Economic Principles
The Natural Step and Factor Four
Natural Capitalism Consulting
Creating Sustainable Businesses
- Are the SEC and Citigroup Deceiving a Federal Judge?
(Use as strong example of Banks being above the law)
- Bankers Evicted from Nation's Economy
(This is a parody of what is happening today with OWS)
- Factor Four:(in-class) :
What is Factor 4 about? In a nut shell it's about doing more with less - reducing resource depletion without reducing the quality of life. If you do twice as much with half the resources you've achieved a factor 4 improvement
- Factor Four, Factor 10 and beyond (in-class)
- Factor Ten Institute (in-class)
- What is Sustainable Development?
- What is Sustainability?
- The International Society for Ecological Economics
- Hawken, "Natural Capitalism: Summarize Main Points
- Hawken: The Three Basic Business Questions (in-class)
- The True Cost of America's Love Affair with the Car (in-class)
- A Short History of the Hypercar
- Designing a HyperCar
- Living on Earth: Imagining the Hyper-Car (1995)
- Dec. 2000 Presentation on the Hypercar
- FAQs--- Can I Buy a HyperCar -- RMI and MOVE research
- White, The Ecology of Work (in-class)
- New Hybrid Reviews, News & Hybrid Mileage (MPG) Info | Hybrid Cars
- YouTube: William McDonough: Cradle to cradle design (3:00)
- Valuring Ecosystem Services (in-class)
- Mysterious, Massive Disappearance/Death of US Honey Bees .:
Are honey bees the canary in the mineshaft?
Albert Einstein made the statement ” If honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years.” He was speaking in regard to the symbiotic relationship of all life on the planet. All part of a huge interconnected ecosystem, each element playing a role dependant on many other elements all working in concert creating the symphony of life. Should any part of the global body suffer, so does the whole body.
- Mystery of the disappearing bees: Solved! | The Great Debate:
Until recently, the evidence was inconclusive on the cause of the mysterious “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) that threatens the future of beekeeping worldwide. But three new studies point an accusing finger at a culprit that many have suspected all along, a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.
In the U.S. alone, these pesticides, produced primarily by the German chemical giant Bayer and known as “neonics” for short, coat a massive 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton seeds. They are also a common ingredient in home gardening products.
But scientists believe that exposure to toxic pesticides is only one factor that has led to the decline of honey bees in recent years. The destruction and fragmentation of bee habitats, as a result of land development and the spread of monoculture agriculture, deprives pollinators of their diverse natural food supply. This has already led to the extinction of a number of wild bee species. The planting of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops – some of which now contain toxic insecticides within their genetic structure – may also be responsible for poisoning bees and weakening their immune systems.
- Hawken, The Death of Birth (in-class)
- List of countries by GDP (nominal) - Wikipedia,
- 2010 Global Domestic Product ($60 trillion in 2010)
- 50 Countries with the Highest GDP (in-class)
- 2008 Global Domestic Product
- United States: Our Lost Wealth (in-class)
- Externality - Wikipedia
- Estes, The Public Cost of Private Corporations
- The cost of Externalities to US society in 1996
- The Toxic Waste Business Creates (in-class)
- Cost of United States Resource Waste (in-class)
- Incinerators Put Waste into the Air and Environment (in-class)
- Plasma converter turns Garbage into Energy
Hawken: Basic Principles of Sustainability
The larger challenge Hawken faces is this book is this: How to convince national and global businesses that protecting and preserving the environment is both in their short- and long-term best interest. Moreover, he wants to convince business that they will actually profit from and be more competitive as a result of their efforts to protect the environment. He believes that national and global business is so powerful that only by convincing them to protect the environment will we be able to solve the environmental crisis.
Hawken lays out a series of larger objectives he wants to achieve in his argument for reforming our political and economic systems to protect the environment (See: Paul Hawken: A Declaration of Sustainability):
"Just as every act of production and consumption in an industrial society leads to further environmental degradation, regardless of intention or ethos, we need to imagine--and then design--a system of commerce where the opposite is true, where doing good is like falling off a log, where the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a matter of course, not a matter of altruism.
A system of sustainable commerce would involve these objectives:
1. It would reduce absolute consumption of energy
and natural resources among developed nations by 80 percent within 40 to 60 years.
2. It would provide secure, stable, and meaningful employment for people everywhere.
3. It would be self-actuating as opposed to regulated, controlled, mandated, or moralistic.
4. It would honor human nature and market principles.
5 .It would be perceived as more desirable than our present way of life.
6. It would exceed sustainability by restoring degraded habitats and ecosystems to their fullest biological capacity.
7. It would rely on current solar income.
8 .It should be fun and engaging, and strive for an aesthetic outcome."
In order to convince business and economic leaders, Hawken believes that environmentalists must focus on how protecting the environment is good for business and will actually increase their profits and peoples' standards of living. The old stereotype of the Puritanical environmentalist who is a killjoy, trying to stop people from consuming and enjoying life, simply won't work to convince people that they should change their way of life in order to protect the environment. Hawken believes that environmentalists should try to describe protecting the global environment as bringing positive changes that will improve people's lives.
Hawken: Valuing Ecosystem Services
The Three Basic Business Questions
"To change this state of affairs, business will have to deal directly with the three issues of what it takes, what it makes, and what it wastes." (21)
In his chapter, "The Death of Birth," Hawken examines the economic costs of destroying the environment and depending on non-renewable resources for our economic well-being and profits. He wants to convince business that economic growth that depends on destroying the environment and wasting non-renewable, scare natural resources is, in the end, not profitable or a wise investment. Instead of seeing the environment as a resource that needs to be exploited and destroyed for short-term profits, how can we understand the environment as a resource that provides the source of all of business's profits.
Hawken now argues that current national and global economic institutions allow business to profit at the expense of the environment. In doing so, business is destroying the very source of "natural capital" it needs to continue to profit in the future. He argues that productive, healthy environments and ecosystems provide vital services essential for human health and the success of businesses. But currently every natural system in the world is in decline. We are destroying forests, grasslands, fisheries, and fresh and salt-water ecosystems. Hawken argues that current business practices are exceeding the carrying capacity of local and global environments. We are literally consuming our environments in order to support our current profits and standard of living. Our commerce, he argues, is growing faster than nature, and in doing so is destroying the ability of the Earth to continue to support business profits and human health. We can see this in the current mass extinction that is occurring throughout the world. We are losing over 27,000 species a year due to habitat destruction and industrial expansion.
However, business believes that technology will continue to expand the biological capacity of the global environment, and constantly increase the ability of the Earth to support economic growth and corporate profits. But Hawken now argues that neither science nor technology can replace the vital services provided by local and global environments. The destruction of topsoil, forests, grasslands, fisheries, and fresh- and salt water ecosystems will very quickly lead to declines in agricultural productivity, decline in the supply of wood, decline in fish and seafood harvests, declines in water quality, and increased global warming because of the reduced ability of plants to consume the increasing levels of Carbon dioxide our commerce is pumping into the environment. By destroying the Earth's ability to produce food, wood, clean water, and clean air, business is undermining its future source of profits. National and global business must come to understand that if they want to protect their short- and long-term profits they must protect the environment. Hawken even goes one step further, arguing that if they not only protect but restore the environment, business will be able to increase the ability of the Earth to support their commercial activities and their profits. If business considers the value of a healthy and restored local and global environment, then they will accept measures to protect and restore the environment; they will even begin to work closely with governments to see that the environment is protected, recognizing a healthy environment as a major source of their continued profits. Saving the environment can in fact be a profitable activity.
The Problem with Maximum Sustainable Yield
Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems
Tracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy
Hawken: The Toxic Waste Business Creates
In his next chapter, "The Creation of Waste," Hawken argues that the larger costs of creating and disposing of toxic wastes is prohibitive. A healthy, profitable business system would compete to produce as little waste as possible, realizing that such wastes are a drain on their profits and a threat to the health of the environment which supports their profits. Hawken argues that the U.S. government has spent one trillion dollars for containing and cleaning up toxic wastes since 1970s. Currently, the government is trying to clean up more than 12,000 dangerous Superfund toxic waste sites in the United States. These wastes not only pollute and damage the environment, they damage human health, which in the end can be very costly both for business, governments, and individuals. But businesses are arguing the cost of protecting and saving lives by limiting the commercial creation of toxic waste is just too expensive. Hawken counters by arguing that it is too expensive to continue to create these toxic wastes which pollute and poison the environment and damage people's health. For example, many public health officials know that there are "cancer clusters" around chemical companies and toxic waste sites throughout the country. People who live near these sites have a much higher level of breast cancer, leukemia, cancer, and birth defects. Hawken argues that these medical and public health costs are too great to allow the continued production and use of toxic chemicals.
Let's now look at some of the associated costs business and economic growth create by destroying the environment and creating toxic chemical wastes (These are taken from Paul Hawken: Natural Capitalism):
Resource Waste :
The U.S. is far better at creating waste -- 1 million pounds per person per year -- than products. Fresh Kills on Staten Island is the world's largest landfill, providing a repository for the garbage of New York City. Covering 4 square miles and more than 100 feet deep, it contains 2.9 billion cubic feet of trash, including 100 million tons of newspaper, paint cans, potato peels, cigarette butts, chicken bones, dryer lint, and an occasional corpse. New Yorkers dump 26 million pounds of trash at Fresh Kills daily. By the time it closes in 2001, it will be the tallest hill on the Eastern seaboard. But as massive as Fresh Kills is, it takes in just .02 percent of the waste generated in the United States. Every day, Americans dispose of an additional 5,300 times as much waste elsewhere.
Americans, who have the largest material requirements in the world, each directly or indirectly use an average of 125 pounds of material every day, or about 23 tons per year. This consumption consists of fuels in the form of gas, coal, and oil; quarried materials such as stone, gravel, and sand; industrial minerals such as phosphate, cement, and gypsum; industrial metals such as copper and aluminum; forestry products such as sawed timber, pulpwood for paper, and firewood; and agricultural products such as milk, meat, eggs, grain, hay, and produce.
Americans waste more than 1 million pounds per person per year. This includes: 3.5 billion pounds (920 million square yards) of carpet sent to landfills, 25 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, and 6 billion pounds of polystyrene. Domestically, we waste 28 billion pounds of food, 300 billion pounds of organic and inorganic chemicals used for manufacturing and processing, and 700 billion pounds of hazardous waste generated by chemical production. If you count the waste developed in extracting gas, coal, oil, and minerals, that would add another 34 trillion pounds per year.
Furthermore, domestic figures for material flows do not account for the waste generated overseas on our behalf. For example, the Freeport-McMoRan gold mine in Irian Jaya annually dumps 66 pounds of tailings and toxic waste into Indonesian rivers for every man, woman, and child in the United States. Only a tiny fraction of the 125,000 tons of daily waste material comes to the United States as gold. The rest remains there.
Total wastes, excluding wastewater, exceed 50 trillion pounds a year in the United States. (A trillion is a big number. To count to 50 trillion at the rate of one numeral per second would require the cumulative and total lifetimes of 23,000 people.) If you add wastewater, the total flow of American waste equals at least 250 trillion pounds. Less than 5 percent of the total waste stream actually gets recycled -- primarily paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, and steel.
We are far better at making waste than at making products. For every 100 pounds of product we manufacture in the United States, we create at least 3,200 pounds of waste. In a decade, we transform 500 trillion pounds of molecules into nonproductive solids, liquids, and gases.
Our Lost Wealth:
The U.S. wastes more than $2 trillion annually. The United States prides itself on being the richest country in the world. Yet we can't balance the budget, pay for education, or take care of the aged and infirm. How is it that we can have both a growing economy and a growing underclass?
In politics, they say "follow the money." What you find is that the waste in resources and people shows up in our overall gross domestic product (GDP). Of the $7 trillion spent every year in the United States, we waste at least $2 trillion. What is meant by waste? Money spent where the buyer gets no value.
Get out your calculators:
The World Resources Institute has found that roadway congestion costs $100 billion per year in lost productivity, not counting gasoline, accident, and maintenance costs. Highway accidents cost $358 billion per year, including $228 billion in pain and suffering and $40 billion in property damage. We spend another $85 billion indirectly subsidizing free parking at shopping malls and workplaces. The hidden social costs of driving-- hidden because they are not paid by motorists directly-- also include disease and damage to crops and forests caused by auto exhaust. These charges total $300 billion.
We spend $50 billion a year to guard sea-lanes and to protect oil sources we would not need if President Reagan had not gutted emission standards in 1986. We spend nearly $200 billion a year in supplementary energy costs because we do not employ the same energy efficiency standards for our businesses and homes as do the Japanese.
We waste around $65 billion on non-essential or fraudulent medical tests and, by some estimates, $250 billion on inflated overhead generated by the current health insurance system. We spend $52 billion on substance abuse, $69 billion on obesity treatments, $125 billion on heart disease, and, some estimate, as much as $100 billion on health problems related to air pollution.
Legal, accounting, audit, bookkeeping, and record-keeping expenditures to comply with an unnecessarily complex and unenforceable tax code cost
citizens at least $250 billion a year; what Americans fail to pay the IRS adds up to another $150 billion.
Crime costs taxpayers $450 billion a year; lawsuits, $300 billion.
These figures don't include disbursements for Superfund sites, monies to clean up nuclear weapons facilities (estimated to be as high as $500 billion), the annual cost of 25 billion tons of material waste, subsidies to environmentally damaging industries, loss of fisheries, damage from overgrazing, water pollution, topsoil loss, government waste, gambling, or the social costs of unemployment. Conceivably, half the GDP is spent on waste.
If we could shift a portion of these expenditures to more productive uses, we would have the money to balance our budget, take care of those who cannot care for themselves, raise wonderfully educated and responsible children, restore degraded environments, and help developing countries. If, for example, we had simply adopted stricter energy standards in 1974 -- standards in use by Japan -- and had applied the savings to the national debt, we would not have a national deficit today.
U.S. National Debt Clock
Hawken, The Death of Birth
"An ecosystem evolves from pioneering, immature states that emphasize growth, through several intermediate stages, until it evolves into mature systems that are highly efficient and resource-conserving. Mature, climax systems comprise an association of organisms that reach a state of equilibrium which leaves the habitat largely unchanged from year to year. Because no environment remains unchanged, even climax communities do not last forever, but they are the most diverse, stable, and complex of communities, and are thus more resilient to disturbances in the greater environment." (20)
"The differences between pioneer and climax systems are instructive. In immature systems, most energy is used to create new growth, so that bare soil is quickly covered. In a climax system, the greater part of energy is devoted to the continuation of the existing plant and animal communities, since all of the ecosystem is, in fact, colonized and inhabited. All present agriculture, whether it is slash-and-burn or sod-breaking, involves the reversion of a climax system to a pioneering one. We exchange stability and sustainability for short-term abundance and production." (20)
"Another measure of our wholesale plunder of the ecosystem is provided by estimating the net primary production (NPP) of the planet, defined as the sum of all photosynthetic production minus the energy required to maintain and support those plants. The annual figure arrived at is in the area of 225 billion metric tons of wood, grass, fiber, and food. Of this total, 60 percent is produced on land and 40 percent in the oceans. An oft-quoted study suggests that our human economy currently utilizes, consumes, converts, burns or clear cuts annually 40 percent of the total NPP on land. In short, one species-our own-out of 5 to 30 million species (no one is sure how many there are) is directly and indirectly claiming 40 percent of the earth ' s production for itself." (22)
"Every natural system in the world today is in decline. In the past twenty years, the world's forests have been reduced by 120 million hectares (296 million acres). In 1991 alone, 17 million hectares were cut or destroyed, the highest rate of reduction in the history of humankind. The burning associated with the clearing of tropical forests placed 52 trillion kilograms of C0 2 into the atmosphere last year, an amount that is equal to 40 percent of all industrial emissions." (22)
"There are many other examples--locally, regionally, and globally--where demand is exceeding supply, causing a deterioration of the living systems that provide our present standard of living. We are drawing down resources that took millions of years to create in order to supplement current consumption. This is the ecological perspective of the industrial age; we cannot hold onto it indefinitely, in fact, industrialism itself may not last for even one more human lifetime. At present, to compensate for the limitations placed on production by the carrying capacity of the environment, we are speeding up the rate at which we fish, farm, deforest, and extract." (23)
"Estimating carrying capacity of fisheries and other large, complex systems is difficult, and not always accurate, partially due to inexperience and lack of concerted effort. Transnational corporations, the World Bank, and politicians have not yet determinedly integrated the processes involved with the estimation of carrying capacity into the act of development. Exceeding carrying capacity does not prove that carrying capacity does not exist, but merely that we know how to evade it temporarily, further damaging the sustainable yield of a given habitat." (25)
"At the present rate of extinction--estimates range from 20,000 to over 100,000 species every year--we may lose 20 percent of all the species on the planet within the next twenty to forty years, most of these in the tropical rain forests. In the United States , if present global warming projections are correct, we will face losses of 20 percent of our 20,000 plant species. It's also worth noting that many species, even though not yet at risk of completely disappearing, are being so severely depleted genetically that their ability to reproduce and adapt is increasingly impaired. The loss of evolutionary potential is being called the "death of birth." (29)
"Today, because business has refused to face and confront environmental issues, there are tens of thousands of environmental groups in the world trying to abate or at least ameliorate the destruction of the world by commerce. As important as their gains have been, this battle cannot be won, because commerce and industry are growing faster than nature. No amount of isolated actions will transform the system. We're still operating under commercial rules, placing the reputed needs of humankind above the health of the planet." (31)
"The global economy has already exceeded carrying capacity--that point beyond which further growth will decay and effectively destroy its host. If our planet its land and sky and oceans--were growing 2 percent a year, we could posit sustainable economic growth of a similar rate. But the earth is stable. It does not grow. The input of the sun likewise remains constant, while much of the wealth derived from that input, stored over tens of millions of years in fossil fuels, has already been consumed in less than two centuries. No technology in the world can alter this equation." (32)
"But this is the way of industrialism--"the survival of the fittest" as it has been incorrectly interpreted. The "winners " are the companies that consistently overstep and exceed carrying capacity. Corporate capitalism recognizes no limit; has no habitat. General Electric initially produced light bulbs. It now also sells bonds, makes jet engines, and produces the "Today " show. DuPont made its fortune selling gunpowder and is now producing biogenetically engineered crops that are resistant to its own brand of chemical herbicides. Corporations have been more intent on reorganizing the world to make it more habitable for themselves, rather than the other way around." (33)
"Businesses do not need to recognize sustainability in order to succeed. They don't have to take into account that their present demands on resources are tantamount to stealing from the future, or that selling today's wants is at the expense of tomorrow's needs. Nor does business have to acknowledge the devastating legacy of toxins and waste it is passing off to future generations. In fact, businesses are usually "better off" ignorant of these facts and principle s ' if they intend to prosper in the present economic system. Conversely, setting out to redesign or start up a business so that it does maintain a holistic relationship between economy and ecology, the ethical entrepreneur is handicapped financially since he bears the costs of the additional responsibilities he's assumed and which his competitors have shunned. Thus, the commercial acts that would lead us away from runaway economic devastation, although sound in the principles of nature, are unsound by the standards of the economy." (34)
Hawken, The Creation of Waste
"It is not surprising that, in the process of taking too much, we waste too much. Industry releases chemicals into the air, discharges effluents into waterways and the ocean, and injects toxins deep into the ground or into concrete-lined drums and landfills. Sometimes it just washes them down the sink. Every American consumes about 36 pounds of resources a week, while 2,000 pounds of waste are discarded to support that consumption. " (37)
"Unlike nature's "waste" (which is really not waste at all), business wastes have no value to other species or organisms and may be fatal to them. The environment can absorb waste, redistributing and transforming it into harmless forms, but just as the earth has a limited capacity to produce renewable resources, its capacity to receive waste is similarly constrained. Its capacity to accept highly toxic waste is practically nonexistent." (37)
"We can transfer our household waste from one small, "artificial" environment to the larger environment, but where, then, does the larger environment, the natural world, transfer the accumulated mountains of waste? The biosphere represents our source of wealth. It is the capital which we draw down to support our lives. Whenever we pollute or degrade that system with toxins or waste, we are destroying our natural capital and reducing our ability to sustain our civilization.. It is that simple." (38)
"Nothing is more basic to the argument of this book than the proposition that disposal of hazardous wastes is not the root problem. Rather, is the root symptom. The critical issue is the creation of toxic wastes. Hazardous wastes are the result of a linear system in which the end products of resources and energy inputs are neither cycled nor returned. Nature is by definition cyclical; there is virtually no waste in the natural world that does not provide food for other living systems."
"There is every reason to believe that concentrations of these compounds in wildlife and humans will continue to increase as they move up the food chain. But while their effects may already be present in the population, there is not sufficient evidence at present to predict how widespread they may be. Sterile men and women may be the first generation of victims, but because the embryo is extremely vulnerable to such disruptors, and because we are continuing to place more and different chemical disruptors into the environment, it is increasingly difficult to determine which series of compounds may be the causal agent." (43)
"The implication of recent studies on effects of these compounds on human development is that we have within the human race a biological ozone hole, a series of chemical compounds whose effect will expand throughout the entire world population for decades, even if all such compounds ceased being manufactured today. Tests show that these compounds have effects in very low concentrations, and because of their widespread use and ubiquitous presence..." (43)
"Organochlorines are just one among dozens of cautionary tales concerning man-made poisons in the environment. Downwind from the British Petroleum refinery and chemical plant in Lima, Ohio, local residents have formed Allen County Citizens for the Environment (ACCE) to monitor the biggest polluter in their state. Among the compounds the company has released into the air and water are benzene, acrylonitrile, formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, methyl ethyl ketone, and carbon tetrachloride." (44)
"By focusing on the immediate problems involving the disposal of waste, industry is able to say that it is responsive to rising public concern. What it is actually doing is avoiding the fundamental issue, which is the creation of waste. This narrow focus also ignores the fact that industrial degradation of the planet is no longer a regional problem, a woe specific to a time and a place, and therefore theoretically controllable. Pollution is no longer restricted to industrial centers like Pittsburgh or Nagoya, but affects every forest, ocean, and continent, as well as the whole of the upper atmosphere. What were once regional pools of pollution have spilled over into greater lakes of trouble, and even non-toxic substances such as CO2 have, in their sheer enormity..." (45)
"The folly of the present approach to pollution is best exemplified by the 1,200 (of an estimated 90,000 hazardous waste sites in all) toxic sites in the United States that have been designated as priority cleanup areas under the Superfund law. Organochlorines are part or all of the problem at most of the locations, and although there is a great deal we can and should do to improve these sites..." (45)
Incinerators Put Waste into the Air
"Incineration does not eliminate garbage or waste, it merely changes its form. Emissions are spread downwind across towns and country, which is why they have tall smokestacks. One study in New Jersey showed that a state-of-the-art incinerator consuming 2,250 tons of household garbage daily would annually emit 5 tons of lead, 17 tons of mercury, 580 pounds of cadmium, 2,248 tons of nitrous oxide, 853 tons of sulfur dioxide, 777 tons of hydrogen chloride, 87 tons of sulfuric acid, 18 tons of fluorides, and 98 tons of particulate matter small enough to lodge permanently in the lungs. Most important, incinerators turn out to be dioxin generators. The lignin from paper and wood combines with chlorine gases to form the 210 different dioxin compounds. "( 45-46)
"Since 1970, the United States has spent over $1 trillion to monitor, litigate, contain, and curb pollution and hazardous waste. Despite that, the environment is more polluted today than it was two decades
ago. Efforts to limit toxins and emissions did control many pollutants, but those efforts have been subsumed by an overall increase in the manufacture and distribution of waste by industry due to rising demand for products that create toxic and hazardous waste, i.e., pesticides, plastics, and automobiles. We would be worse off today were it not for the $1 trillion expenditure, but in sum, we are worse off than when we started. Thus, we face a dilemma." (47-48)
"Undeterred, business claims that we need to grow economically in order to pay for all the clean-up costs. From the point of view of the corporation the logic of growth is unassailable. It derives from the observation that, if a business declines, loses market share, and experience, price erosion, environmental efforts will have to be shunted aside in favor of mere survival and capital preservation." (48)
"The logical response to our current predicament would be to design or to redesign manufacturing systems so that they do not create hazardous and biologically useless waste in the first place. Instead, today a revisionist movement asks us to revise our chemical and toxic standards. Lobbyists for food and chemical companies believe that we have set our tolerances for exposure to toxins too high, and that human beings can "safely" absorb greater quantities than those established by current regulations." (49)
"Either way, the proliferation of man-made compounds being introduced into the world is far greater than the rate and capacity at which they can be researched or understood. The fiction is that since we do not know the actual tolerances wherein these compounds pose a threat to human existence, and since economic calculations show that many of the regulations are expensive when measured in terms of premature deaths averted, we should relax a regulatory policy that almost everyone concedes works badly." (51)
"A simple computer exercise calculating the number of potential synergistic and biologic interchanges involved with 5.5 billion people, millions of other species and the over 100,000 chemicals and toxins introduced into our environment tells us that it will take an astronomical amount of research to assess what exposures and problems we may have unleashed to date. It is not merely the environment that is being overwhelmed by toxins, it is our capacity to understand and study them. Any time a system creates byproducts that harm rather than further life, it is a form of waste, and by definition, it is uneconomical. An enduring and true economy does not create waste." (51)
"Robert uses the Natural Step to ask systemic questions that are not only easier to respond to, but that elicit surprisingly consensual-agreement, from Greenpeace and unions to industry and religion. For example, in the case of dioxin or any persistent toxin, Robert believes there are six questions to be asked: Is dioxin natural? No. Is dioxin stable? Yes. Does it degrade into harmless substances? No. Does it accumulate, in bodily tissues? Yes. Is it possible to predict the acceptable tolerances? No. Can we continue to place dioxin into the environment? No, not if we want to survive." (53)
"We all know civilization is in danger. The population explosion and the greenhouse effect, holes in the ozone and AIDS, the threat of nuclear terror ism and the dramatically widening gap between the rich north and the poor south, the danger of famine, the depletion of the biosphere and the mineral resources of the planet, the expansion of commercial television culture and the growing threat of regional wars-all these,, combined with thousands of other factors, represent a general threat to mankind. The large paradox at the moment is that man--a great collector of information-is well aware of all this, yet is absolutely incapable of dealing with the danger." (54)
"But how do we then move ahead to create a commercial system that is based on natural principles? How can we crate a society and culture that support the profound and lengthy transition from an industrial to a restorative society? Business requires more than criticism. It needs a plan, a vision, a basis--a broad social mandate that will turn it away from the linear, addictive, short-term economic activities in which it is enmeshed and trapped." (54)
"Rather than argue about where to put our wastes, who will pay for it, and how long it will be before toxins leak into the groundwater, we should be trying to design systems that are elegantly imitative of climax ecosystems found in nature. Companies must re-envision and re-imagine themselves as cyclical corporations, whose products either literally disappear into harmless components, or whose products are so specific and targeted to a specific function that there is no spillover effect, no waste, no random molecules dancing in the cells of wildlife, in other words, no forms of life must be adversely affected." (54)
"Monsanto, and Dow believe they are in the synthetic chemical production business, and cannot change this belief, they and we are in trouble. If they believe they are in business to serve people, to help solve problems, to use and employ the ingenuity of their workers to improve the lives of people around them by learning from the nature.that gives us life, we have a chance." (55)
Will Businesses Cheat and Create
Waste because it is Profitable to do so?
Because of the economic and medical costs of producing this toxic waste, Hawken argues we spend trillions of dollars. Instead of asking how much waste we can afford to create and how much human health risks we can afford to take, Hawken argues that we should ask how can we create an economic systems that produces as little waste as possible. The ideal goal of such an economic system is for business to be able to recycle and use all of the waste it creates, so in fact it isn't waste. By not producing and relying on toxic chemicals for our profits, business can actually make greater profits and consumers can save billions of dollars they would have to pay in inflated prices for goods and taxes for governments.
But, as many students pointed out, as long as some businesses can cheat by continuing to destroy the environment and produce and use toxic wastes and continue to profit, then they will. How then can we reform our economic system to make it profitable for all businesses to reduce the toxic chemicals they use and the wastes they thereby create? The answer lies in shifting the costs of storing, disposing, and cleaning up these toxic wastes to business. If business was taxed on the amount of toxic wastes they created and charged for government disposal of this waste, it would be profitable for them to greatly reduce the toxic wastes they create. Moreover, if other businesses could make businesses that damage the environment pay for their companies economic losses caused by this damage, it would be in those businesses interests to reduce their destruction of the environment. For example, if the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest had to pay to losses caused by clearcutting, soil erosion, and resulting water pollution to the commercial fishing industry, then logging companies would be forced to reduce their negative impact on the forest environments. But many students still argued that business will find a way to cheat, arguing that these environmental costs will undermine their profits and destroy jobs. However, Hawken would say that if they do, we haven't yet convinced them that protecting and restoring the environment is more profitable in the long-run. We still need to convince business that the costs of doing business by destroying and polluting the environment in the name of economic growth are just too high. By protecting and restoring the environment, instead of cheating and destroying and polluting the environment, businesses will make more money. This is the challenge environmentalists, governments, and people throughout the world face if they want to convince business and economic leaders that they must lead the way in preserving and restoring the environment. Instead of assuming that business will oppose these changes and try to cheat, we need to think of a way of convincing them that they should be in the forefront of these environmental reforms because if they are their profits will increase. Only business and market capitalism, Hawken concludes, has the economic and political power and resources to protect and restore the global environment.
White, The Ecology of Work
"Challenging our place in this system as mere isolated functions (whether as workers or consumers) is a daunting task, especially for environmentalists, who tend to think that human problems are the concern of somebody else (labor unions, the ACLU, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, etc.). We're about the “Earth first.” My argument is simply that the threats to humans and the threats to the environment are not even two parts of the same problem. They are the same problem. For environmentalism, confronting corporations and creating indignant scientific reports about pollution is the easy stuff. But these activities are inadequate to the real problems, as any honest observer of the last thirty years of environmental activism would have to concede. The “last great places” cannot be preserved. We can no more preserve them than we can keep the glaciers from melting away. Responding to environmental destruction requires not only the overcoming of corporate evildoers but “self-overcoming,” a transformation in the way we live. A more adequate response to our true problems requires that we cease to be a society that believes that wealth is the accumulation of money (no matter how much of it we're planning on “giving back” to nature), and begin to be a society that understands that “there is no wealth but life,” as John Ruskin put it. That is the full dimension and the full difficulty of our problem."
"Capitalism as a system of ever-accelerating production and consumption is, as we environmentalists continually insist, not sustainable. That is, it is a system intent on its own death. Yet the capitalist will stoically look destruction in the face before he will stop what he's doing, especially if he believes that it is somebody else whose destruction is in question. Unlike most of the people living under him, the capitalist is a great risk-taker largely because he believes that his wealth insulates him from the consequences of risks gone bad. Ever the optimistic gambler with other people's money, the capitalist is willing to wager that, while there may be costs to pay, he won't have to pay them. Animals, plants, impoverished people near and far may have to pay, but he bets that he won't. If called upon to defend his actions, he will of course argue that he has a constitutionally protected right to property and the pursuit of his own happiness. This is his “freedom.” At that point, we have the unfortunate habit of shutting up when we ought to reply, “Yes, but yours is a freedom without conscience.”
"In particular, the violence that we know as environmental destruction is possible only because of a complex economic, administrative, and social machinery through which people are separated from responsibility for their misdeeds. We say, “I was only doing my job” at the paper mill, the industrial incinerator, the logging camp, the coal-fired power plant, on the farm, on the stock exchange, or simply in front of the PC in the corporate carrel. The division of labor not only has the consequence of making labor maximally productive, it also hides from workers the real consequences of their work."
"TO THE END THE REIGN OF WORK as something for “functionaries,” and to end the destruction that results from that fractured form of work, we have two options. First, we can simply wait for the catastrophic failure of global capitalism as a functioning economic system. Books on peak oil, sinking water tables, and the impending doom of global warming are abundant and convincing. Huge human populations, especially in the East and Africa , are at risk of mass starvation, civil war, and the disastrous loss of human habitat due to rising ocean levels and desertification. Capitalism will have no choice but to retreat from responsibility for these crises even though they are part of the true costs of doing business.
Unfortunately, simply waiting for catastrophe doesn't ensure that anything good will follow from it, as Darfur has illustrated. It's true that there will be opportunities to create locally based and sustainable communities, but it's also true that fascism, barbarism, and regression are possible. So a second option is in order. We can start providing for a different world of work now, before the catastrophe. We need to insist on work that is not destructive, that deepens the worker, that encourages her creativity. Such a transformation requires a willingness to take a collective risk, a kind of risk very different from capitalist risk taking. The kind of risk I'm suggesting is no small matter. It means leaving a culture based on the idea of success as the accumulation of wealth-as-money. In its place we need a culture that understands success as life. For John Ruskin, humans should make “good and beautiful things” because those things will re-create us as good and beautiful in their turn. To make cheap and ugly and destructive things will kill us, as indeed we are being killed through poverty, through war, through the cheapening of our public and private lives, and through the destruction of the natural world. Of course, many will argue that leaving capitalism behind is not “realistic.” “Oh,certainly,” we're assured, “there are inequalities in capitalism, but on the whole it provides for everyone's prosperity, it provides the greatest good for the greatest number. Why, you'll kill the goose that lays the golden egg! Look, if there's a patch of forest somewhere you want to save, fine, I'll write a check. But this sort of talk is dangerous and un-American.” What we need to recognize is that the real realism for capitalism is in the consequences of its activities. As even Al Gore understands, we are living now in the early stages of an era of consequences: catastrophic climate change, species extinction, and human population collapse. It is not naïve or unrealistic to say that we ought to change; it is only tragic if we don't."
"My argument is not, I assure you, a longing look back to the wonderful world of pre-war rural America . But it is to say that in the course of the last century of global capital triumphant we have been further isolated from what Ruskin called “valuable human things.” In exchange, we have been offered only the cold comfort of the television and computer monitor, and the GPS device that can locate you but only at the cost of being located in a place that is not worth knowing and certainly not worth caring about.
"The turn away from this ugly, destructive, and unequal world is not something that can be accomplished by boycotting corporations when they're bad or through the powerful work of the most concerned scientists. It will not be delivered with glossy brochures by the President's Council on Sustainable Development, and it will certainly not be sold to you by Martha Stewart. A return to the valuable human things of the beautiful and the useful will only be accomplished, if it is ever to be accomplished, by the humans among us."