Chapter 1. Seeding the Sustainable Economy
Gary Gardner and Thomas Prugh, Worldwatch Institute
Environmental decline and persistent mass poverty suggest that the dominant model for economies worldwide is in crisis. But alternatives to business-as-usual can steer most economies onto sustainable paths. Underpinned by a handful of key Big Ideas, economic innovations might just remake our world.
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Chapter 2. A New Bottom Line for Progress
John Talberth, Redefining Progress
GDP tells an important, if one-dimensional, economic story. But it’s not the only story or even the most vital one. Metrics that better measure the things people most value, and don’t count pollution and other “bads” as assets, are explored in this chapter.
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Chapter 3. Rethinking Production
Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions
Modern production systems specialize in huge volumes, incidentally producing massive wastes and toxic by-products. Futurethinking businesses are inventing ways to meet people’s needs with a fraction of current environmental impacts.
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Chapter 4. The Challenges of Sustainable Lifestyles
Tim Jackson, University of Surrey
“More is better”—the modern economic mantra—is under attack as the environmental, economic, and personal downsides of consumerism become evident. Harried, overworked, and indebted consumers are increasingly open to a focus on quality of life rather than more stuff.
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Chapter 5. Meat and Seafood: The Most Costly Ingredients in the Global Diet
Brian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg, Worldwatch Institute
Consumption of fish and meat is growing fast worldwide, but producing these in huge livestock-raising operations generates enormous health and environmental problems. Alternative ways of meeting demand for meat and fish can protect the environment and small farmers.
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Chapter 6. Building a Low-Carbon Economy
Christopher Flavin, Worldwatch Institute
To avoid tipping Earth’s climate into a dangerous runaway warming mode, global carbon emissions must be slashed by upwards of 80 percent by 2050. Improved energy productivity, deployment of renewable energy technologies, and enlightened government energy policies are key to achieving this goal.
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Chapter 7. Improving Carbon Markets
Zoë Chafe and Hilary French, Worldwatch Institute
A world choking on carbon increasingly understands that measures for reducing national and personal carbon footprints are critical. But which ones, and how should they be implemented? This chapter sorts fact from fiction for policymakers and consumers.
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Chapter 8. Water in a Sustainable Economy
Ger Bergkamp, IUCN, and Claudia Sadoff, IUCN and International Water Management Institute
Water may be the critical resource challenge of this century, with farmers, cities, and the natural environment all claiming shares of a shrinking pool. But market mechanisms and enlightened regulations can supply water to all claimants, even as they reduce waste and protect aquatic ecosystems.
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Chapter 9. Banking on Biodiversity
Ricardo Bayon, Ecosystem Marketplace
Despite the spread of national parks and protected areas, species decline and and ecosystem destruction continue apace. Market mechanisms (such as payment for ecosystem services), when linked to conservation goals, can protect natural capital while providing regulated access to important economic resources.
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Chapter 10. The Parallel Economy of the Commons
Jonathan Rowe, Tomales Bay Institute
Commons were once a stable and crucial part of many preindustrial economies. As uncontrolled access destroys resources such as fisheries and the atmosphere, the potential of commons regimes to sustainably conserve and allocate scarce resources in a ‘full world’ is more critical than ever.
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Chapter 11. Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World
Erik Assadourian, Worldwatch Institute
Citizens disempowered by economic decisions made far away are discovering that building local economies and sustainable communities offers viable alternatives to globalization. Case studies illuminate what’s possible in creating sustainability at the grassroots.
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Chapter 12. Mobilizing Human Energy
Jason Calder, Future Generations
Billions in aid have been spent over the decades on developing economies, often with shockingly little effect. A key missing element has been strong input from the grassroots, which allows local people to claim ownership of their development futures. This chapter will examine successful cases of grassroots-led development and their lessons for governments.
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Chapter 13. Investing for Sustainability
Bill Baue, Socialfunds.com
Finance is a vital leverage point for steering economies in a sustainable direction. Financing activities at all levels—venture capital, socially responsible investing, and microfinance—are being examined for their potential contributions to building sustainable economies.
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Chapter 14. New Approaches to Trade Governance
Mark Halle, International Institute for Sustainable Development
Free-trade ideology has long mistaken means for ends in trade discussions. The global community’s goal ought to be sustainable and equitable economic development, an end that may not always be served by a blind adherence to free-trade doctrine. Reforms of the WTO and the broader global trading system could help promote sustainable economic activity.
Chapter 1. Seeding the Sustainable EconomyGary Gardner and Thomas Prugh
- In past years, nature was perceived as a seemingly inexhaustible resource. (p. 4) Why has this view changed, and in what ways is the change manifested?
- Netflix and Interface are two companies that have proactively reduced the waste associated with their products. (p. 10) How have they done this? What other waste reduction strategies might companies use?
- Why do so few people control such a large share of the world’s wealth? (p. 8) What can be done to change this?
- Consumers are driving trends in “green” products such as hybrid vehicles, organic food, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). (p. 16) But some critics argue that our entire agricultural and production systems need to be overhauled to achieve sustainability. What are the different roles of individuals and institutions in building a sustainable economy?
Chapter 2. A New Bottom Line for ProgressJohn Talberth
- Critics increasingly question the value of many of today’s most prevalent measures of progress, such as GDP. (p. 19) What do they see as lacking?
- According to Irving Fischer, what type of value contributes to a product’s “psychic income”? (p. 19) Describe some goods or services that have a high economic value but provide little psychic income.
- In Deep Economy, Bill McKibben explains that when people achieve a per-capita income of $10,000 or higher on average, the correlation between happiness and money no longer exists. (p. 21) What does this say about a consumer-driven culture? What type of economic policy would this analysis inspire?
- Of the five microeconomic objectives for sustainability Talberth discusses, which one is poised to make the most impact: certification of products, operations, and supply chains; zero waste; eco-efficiency; workplace well-being; or community vitality? (p. 27)
Chapter 3. Rethinking ProductionL. Hunter Lovins
- Pick an object nearby. Do you think it is recyclable, reusable, and/or re-manufacturable? How could the object be made more eco-efficient? (pp. 33–34)
- What makes large companies like Wal-Mart (pp. 35–36) and General Electric (p. 43) particularly poised to make significant improvements in energy efficiency and waste reduction?
- One company profiled in this chapter is guided by the concept “in nature there is no waste.” (p. 41) How can we integrate this outlook into our everyday lives?
- Companies are now urged to value a “triple bottom line” or “integrated bottom line.” (p. 44) What are some social and economic indicators that could be used to evaluate a company beyond its profit levels?
Chapter 4. The Challenge of Sustainable LifestylesTim Jackson
- Describe the concept of “environmental space”? (p. 47) Do you think you are using more or less than your fair share of such space? Should every person in the world have the same share of environmental space?
- As incomes rise, people do not necessarily report more happiness or life satisfaction. (pp. 50–51) Why do you think this is? Would the ability to buy more things make you happier?
- Do you think efforts like “downshifting” or “Buy Nothing Day” are effective? (pp. 52–53) Would you consider participating in these? How would you respond to critics who argue that lower levels of consumption would throw an economy into recession, or worse?
- Each year, some $605 billion is spent on advertising worldwide, and ads have been linked to rising materialism, childhood obesity, and other maladies. (p. 59) Would you favor curbs on advertising? How would you respond to the argument that restrictions on advertising are violations of a right to free speech?
Chapter 5. Meat and Seafood: The Global Diet’s Most Costly IngredientsBrian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg
- What technological developments have lead to the fourfold increase in meat production between 1961 and 2006? (p. 62) In what ways does less expensive, industrially farmed meat “cost” more?
- What are some of the benefits of returning to a more natural method of meat production? (p. 64)
- What role do government subsidies play in meat and fish production? What alternatives do Halweil and Nierenberg suggest to the current system? (p. 67)
- What steps do you take in your own life to ensure that you are “embracing the ethical” with your food choices? (p. 69) What could government and industry do to make this practice easier for you?
Chapter 6. Building a Low-Carbon EconomyChristopher Flavin
- In which regions of the world are carbon emissions rising most quickly, and why? (p. 77)
- Why do buildings hold the greatest potential to increase energy productivity? (p. 80) What steps could you take to increase the energy efficiency of your home or office?
- Look at Table 6-3, “Estimates of Potential Contribution of Renewable Energy Resources.” (p. 83) Which of these renewable energy sources would be well suited for your region? How could renewable energy become more widely used in your area?
- Some argue that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is not sufficient to make energy sustainable, because of ever-greater energy consumption. (p. 79) How would you assess this argument?
Chapter 7. Improving Carbon MarketsZoë Chafe and Hilary French
- Have you bought (or considered buying) carbon offsets? (pp. 101–4) Do you think these are effective in combating climate change?
- Should the current diversity of national and regional carbon markets eventually join to form one cohesive international market? What would the opportunities and challenges be? (pp. 105-6)
- Is the Kyoto Protocol effective for addressing climate change? What more needs to be done to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions? (pp. 98-101)
- Why is “carbon neutral” such a controversial term? (p. 103) Have you seen this phrase used before, and if so, do you believe the claims?
Chapter 8. Water in a Sustainable EconomyGer Bergkamp and Claudia W. Sadoff
- Why is it so difficult to put a value on water as an environmental resource? (pp. 107, 112, 114) What are some innovative ways to measure the value of water?
- Why do diets in wealthy countries require significantly more water than diets in other countries? (p. 109) Do you think your diet requires relatively more or less water than average?
- Why might water pricing hurt the poorest users? (p. 118) What are some ways of pricing water that might encourage sustainable water use?
- How can cap-and-trade schemes, virtual water trading, and certification or ecolabeling, help with water management? (p. 121)
Chapter 9. Banking on BiodiversityRicardo Bayon
- Bayon writes that, “for eons, the price of nature has been woefully close to zero.” (p. 124) Why does he say this, and how is the practice now being counteracted?
- What is “wetland mitigation banking,” and how does it work? (pp. 127–30) In what situations can it be beneficial?
- When it comes to conserving biodiversity, when do you think government regulation, market mechanisms, or voluntary efforts should be used? (p. 124)
- What are “voluntary biodiversity offsets”? (p. 135) Why are some companies setting up these programs, and what do they hope to accomplish?
Chapter 10. The Parallel Economy of the CommonsJonathan Rowe
- Describe some examples of “commons management” in your own community. (p. 138) Have they been successful? What obstacles confronted the public “owners?”
- What is an example of a privately owned management system that would lend itself to commons management? (p. 144)
- Explain what Rowe refers to as the “tragedy of the corporate.” (p. 142)
- What variable did Garrett Hardin not take into account in his seminal 1968 article, “The Tragedy of the Commons”? (p. 141) How does this oversight undermine his argument?
Chapter 11. Engaging Communities for a Sustainable WorldErik Assadourian
- Review the definition of “community” that Assadourian presents in Box 11-1. (p. 152) How does this definition lend itself to the concept of a sustainable community? How does Assadourian’s “community” deviate from a more conventional housing community?
- How is social capital a form of capital like financial capital? (p. 152) What “dividends” can be recouped from social capital?
- Explain the concept of a “third place.” (p. 156) Is there a particular location in your own community that you consider a “third place?” What purpose does it serve for you?
- What are some of the benefits of localizing food production? (p. 156)
Chapter 12. Mobilizing Human EnergyJason S. Calder
- What does Calder believe is the greatest untapped resource in solving the problem of global poverty and environmental decline? (p. 167)
- What are the four common critiques of community-based development? (p. 170)
- Explain Arjun Appadurai’s concept of the “capacity to aspire.” (p. 172) How does this relate to community-based development?
- Calder acknowledges that the rich and affluent may need to reduce their consumption in order to allow the world’s poor to increase consumption, but he also suggests that poor countries should try not to emulate over-consumptive lifestyles. (p. 178) Can these seemingly contradictory recommendations be reconciled?
Chapter 13. Investing for SustainabilityBill Baue
- Of the four sectors of world sustainability investments (socially responsible investment, project finance, private equity and venture capital, and microfinance), which is poised to make the greatest impact on the economy? Why? (p. 181)
- Joe Keefe, the CEO of Pax World, refers to a “sustainability revolution.” (p. 183) What are the driving forces behind this revolution?
- Explain “regenerative investing.” (p. 185) What are the risks associated with this investment strategy?
- In his acceptance speech for the 2006 Nobel Prize, microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus declared poverty an “artificial creation.” (p. 191) What did he mean? How does microfinance help overcome systemic poverty?
Chapter 14. New Approaches to Trade GovernanceMark Halle
- Explain what Halle refers to as the “basic paradox of trade.” (p. 198) Why does such a seemingly beneficial economic system excite such disapproval?
- Halle describes “Third-worldism” as an automatic resistance to change among poorer countries to proposals that come from richer countries. (p. 207) What could be done to overcome this distrust?
- What conditions are necessary for trade liberalization to advance development goals such as social justice, human rights, equity, and a healthy environment? In what ways has trade hindered these goals in the past? (p. 207)
- What changes in trade policy can be expected as countries such as China and India become increasingly influential in the global economy? (p. 206)