(by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins)
Table of contents
At present, technological advances strip the natural and human resources out of its sustainability. They provide cheaper materials tot eh expense of the degradation of natural resources. Capitalism does not consider these natural and human costs in the way they intend to extract resources for profits.
This book talks about the emerging possibilities with natural capitalism, a capitalism characterized by the utmost regard of resources. It differs in its principles, objectives and basic processes from the traditional capitlaist system that we have. This is described as a dramatic transformation of life and commerce. It is expected to create a special economy that radically utilizes less energy and materials. These radical changes, if properly executed, can promote efficient economy, balanced ecology and social equity.
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Natural capitalism acknowledges the vital interdependency between the production and utility of human-made capital and the sustainability of the supply of natural capital. It stresses the four needs of an efficiently functioning economy as follows:
This chapter is all about the transformation of natural capitalism principles as the world's biggest industries, especially in automobiles. This industry is making a head way in resource productivity. Its reconstruction is also supported by several forces of advanced technology, market demand, competition, and ingenuity.
The traditional car is hugely inefficient. The hybrid car is innovative. Its wheels are energized by one or more electric motors but its energy is pumped up by the fuel itself, when required. These hybrid-drive cars are also more durable and could potentially cost less than the old cars. Hybrid cars could also lessen the four main segments of manufacturing by up to ten percent.
Hybrid cars exemplify how natural capitalism can be introduced into the traditionally commercialized markets. Their direct and indirect alterations of energy consumption and manufacturing make them a significant model of how to reverse the degradation of natural capital such as natural resources. The innovations of the automobile industry also show that a market, technological and cultural revolution could transform a sick and energy driven economy to a more sustainable global economy.
This chapter illustrates the natural opportunities in the remarkably wasteful industrial system that we presently have. The industry requires flows of materials to maintain its production. Hence, there is metabolic flow, in a biological jargon. Industry eats energy, minerals and metals, forest, fishes, and agricultural products. It then excretes various solid and liquid wastes which are considered as molecular garbage since they have various and persistent toxic pollutants and gases. The solid waste turns to the junkyards, backyards, landfills, recycling fields, and the seas. The wastes also turn into gaseous substances which fill the atmosphere, rivers, streams, oceans, ground waters, plants, soil and the human and animal resources.
All the industrial products we consume excrete wastes in the form of materials, resources, and impacts. It also contains inherent waste collected by its use and disposal. The Germans called this waste as “ecological rucksack." (Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 2008) For instance, a semiconductor chip generates waste which is over 100,000 times its weight. A computer laptop gathers waste that is more than 4,000 times its weight.
The crucial difference between industry and biological processes is the inherent process by which they are produced. There is a natural feedback in the ecosystem which is continuous. Hence, various elements like carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen are constantly being recycled. Sadly, all these environmental feedbacks are ignored. This means that industrial waste is gathering and it is gathering around nature.
This chapter sums up the ingenious and basic principles of resource industrial and material production. A typical American’s daily wastes flowing in his body is more than twenty times a person's body weight (other than water). However, this is a natural biological process that can be offset without compromising his well-being. In the industrial process, any improvement which gives the same or a better line of services from a smaller flow of stuff can give the same material gains with reduced efforts, costs, and waste.
For several centuries, engineers have found ways to eliminate industrial wastes and reduce the use of energy and resources. Through the years, they have tried to reduce the energy used to make a typical product. It is said to have fallen by an average of one or two percent a year faster when energy prices increases and slower when energy prices decreases. The efforts paved off with the industrial revolution’s reduction of industry’s dependence of energy by 50 percent today as compared to Newcomen's 0.5 percent efficient steam engine years ago.
Still, tons of opportunities exist for being more efficient with material and energy use and waste reduction at each level of the industrial process. This is true even with the most efficient nations and industries. There are various opportunities to excrete wastes and improve product quality. This is made possible by human ingenuity and their new technological developments. Engineers find better ways to apply them and they are extending quicker than they are getting used up. This is in part due to the technology improvements which are faster than replacing obsolete factories. The key is that people and manufacturers must learn as fast as they could. The many possible improvements are at the helm of human creativity.
This chapter is all about how natural capitalism is transforming the real estate and construction industries. A Dutch bank, a California tract development and a New Mexico hotel, for instance, commonly fuse resource efficiency, environmental consciousness, respect for human well-being, and profitable success that has been collectively called "green development".
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Buildings are very important because people spend most of their time in it. They utilize one-third of the world’s total energy and two-thirds of its electricity. Building construction consumes one-fourth of all wood harvested. About 3 billion tons of raw materials are being used to construct buildings worldwide yearly.
Green buildings have been emerging now as the way to the future. They are relatively inexpensive to build, operate, and they are energy efficient. Ideally, green development combines biological and cultural appreciation of technologies and human needs. They are also more profitable and they can be recycled.
This chapter is all about the design principles for achieving great gains in resource productivity. The automobile advanced industrial and materials techniques and green buildings all show that design is just really “applied foresight.” (Ibid.) This is doing carefully and responsibly what you later want to achieve.
Hence, the key to more efficient and sustainable designs depend on improving the quality of designers’ “mindware.” This is a high leverage investment which industries can make. This is because mindware does not depreciate unlike the physical investments we have. On the contrary, they ripen with age and experience.
The traditional economic principle states that the more you save a resource, the more you will have to pay for each increment of saving. But in the case of greening the industry, this is not true. The whole system engineering can attest to this. Their actual practice presents several differing possibilities. In principle, this means that energy saving can often "tunnel through the cost barrier" and make reduced costs that eventually lead to greater return on investments.
Thus, intelligent design and engineering accrue to big savings. For instance, the thick insulation and good windows can reduce the need for a furnace. Also, better appliances help reduce the cooling system and save more on capital costs. Likewise, a more aerodynamic car and a more efficient drive system combine their efforts to launch a spiral of decreasing weight, costs and rigidity.
This chapter shows how to enhance competitiveness by a series of waste elimination and business transformation. Taiichi Ohno, the Father of the Toyota Production System, made a smart and cultural framework for waste reduction. He referred to this as "any human activity which absorbs resources but creates no value." (Ibid.) He was against every form of waste. He called it Ohno called "waste," "futility," or "purposelessness" as muda. Each of these categories of muda includes a whole family of mistakes ranging from activities such as inspecting a product to check its quality (this is an unnecessary process, to begin with), filling a new-car lot with cars that meet no specific demand, etc.
Together with his students, Ohno vastly experienced developing insightful modes of perception or what they call mental "muda spectacles" which reveals the seemingly invisible waste all over us.
We all have wasteful practices which Womack and Jones discussed in their "lean thinking." (Ibid.) Their method has four related elements: the continuous flow of value, defined by the customer, at the pull of the customer, and in search of perfection (which is the end product of muda elimination). These elements are necessary for lean thinking. The good thing is that making value flow quicker always exposes hidden muda in the value system.
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