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Natural Capitalism

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  1,194 ratings  ·  120 reviews
The first Industrial Revolution inaugurated 200 years of unparalleled material development for humankind. But the costs and the consequences are now everywhere evermore apparent: the living systems on which we depend are in retreat. Forests, topsoil, grasslands, wetlands, oceans, coral reefs, the atmosphere, aquifers, tundra and biodiversity are limiting factors - the natu ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Earthscan Publications Ltd (first published September 30th 1999)
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I chose this book for my reading list this quarter because it is one of the most widely discussed books on the transition from our current unsustainable economic system to a more sustainable system. Natural Capitalism is listed amongst the books on Evergreen’s sustainability webpage, so I thought it was important in my path to understanding the various aspects of sustainability. It was then so unsatisfying then that this book is so significantly flawed. The author’s believe that the transition w ...more
Libertarians will love this book.

“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us.” – Wendell Berry.

Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins open the book with this quote, which I agree with. Where Hawken, Lovins, and Lovins and I disagree is the path to getting there.

What is Natural Capita
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

Natural Capitalism suggests that the world is on the verge of a new industrial revolution - one that promises to transform our fundamental notions about commerce and its role in shaping our future. The authors describe a future in which business and environmental interests increasingly overlap, and in which companie
Readers are offered a view of the sustainability movement during the late 1990's in Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. It was first published in 1999. A 10th Anniversay Edition was published in 2010 with a new introduction by Amory B. Lovins and Paul Hawken that updates the story to include successes of the last decade.

The Bottom Line

Reading about sustainability from a distance of over a decade gave me a new perspec
Capitalism is probably here to stay. While there are alternatives that can work on a local level, I remain unconvinced that these can either be dispersed widely enough or "scaled up" enough to supplant capitalism as a whole. So the question becomes: how can we make it less damaging -- to our environment? -- to our spirit?

The answer proposed in this book is, simply put, to appeal to the logic of capitalism: i.e. profits. Being good makes sense because it makes money.

Well, almost. While their desc
Apr 09, 2008 ValerieLyn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eco-folks
Not quick or easy (nor off-puttingly technical), but this book has a ton of great information about what it means to overhaul society to make it greener and how doing do would make it a less anti-social society.
Best read over tea, and not necessarily in order.
Generally, there is a specter haunting non fiction, namely that the authors take about 35% more pages than they need to expound their ideas. I want to scream "I GET IT! LET'S MOVE ON!" but no one is listening.
I'm sure there were some excell
This book changed my life and set me on my current path, which I hope will be a career in corporate sustainability. Basically, this is a primer for the next industrial revolution which we are currently entering and seeks to change the paradigm which says sustainability and a good bottom line for countries/corporations are mutually exclusive. In fact, it is now emerging to be just the opposite. The Lovines and Hawkin were prophetic in their predictioins, as we are now seeing what they spelled out ...more
I learned so much from this book that it is impossible to record in one review. To some extent I already knew or knew of many theories and approaches outlined in Natural Capitalism, however, finding it all in one coherent and interesting presentation was refreshing.

It has clearly refreshed and renewed my desire to study further system engineering approaches to civic problems.

More review details at:
Ross Venook
Dec 05, 2006 Ross Venook rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks interested in sustainable business and greentech
Not terribly easy to read, but full of vision and inspiring tales of companies that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.

For a preview (or the whole book, if you're a cheap student) you can download pdf's chapter by chapter at [].
I think this book should be a must read for every single person in America. Whether you believe that Global Warming is happening or not, it gives food for thought on how simple changes can have a big impact on how we consume.
Preston Kutney
This is a book that I wish every business leader and policy maker would read. The book is a little outdated, and it is not without its flaws (chiefly the naive optimism the authors display that sustainable business practices are imminent and inevitable), but I thought the authors did an incredible job of outlining the structural deficiencies in the traditional capitalist system to address ongoing environmental degradation and depletion issues AND identifying major sources of systemic waste and p ...more
Gary Bruff
This book lays out an economic program with a great deal of vision. Even though the ideas elaborated upon here seem in most cases like the best courses for economic action, it is doubtful for a number of reasons whether American society will be willing to accept these remedies for what ails us all.

I read this maybe ten years ago, so I am only able to present the ideas that made a vivid impression to me.

Pipes. Taking it as a given that we need to dispense with carbon fuels, the idea of hooking up
I just skimmed this book to find the essence of its argument and pick out excerpts for my Jensen tutorial. The main thesis is that natural capitalism can do things better for people and the planet in the long term. The premises of natural capitalism are of course intuitive and appealing. However, the book ends up being a bundle of great individual ideas masquerading as a plan for saving the whole economy/society. The ideas on offer could and would be picked up by individual entrepeneurs and make ...more
Don Shelby
The world's economy is based on natural resources, the extraction of them and the making and selling and buying of those things which come from nature. As a result, the environment is being despoiled, and resources are diminishing. The authors suggest a new theory of economics and that is to place a value on that which comes from nature. That which has cash value is preserved and carefully used. It is the basis for an economic sustainability model that will help manufacturers, allow capitalism t ...more
from the library, hardcover, c1999

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xv
The Next Industrial Revolution
Reinventing the Wheels: Hypercars and Neighborhoods
Waste Not
Making the World
Building Blocks
Tunneling Through the Cost Barrier
Muda, Service, and Flow
Capital Gains
Nature's Filaments
Food for Life
Aqueous Solutions
Climate: Making Sense and Making Money
Making Markets Work
Human Capitalism
Once Upon a Planet

Booklist Reviews (from the library computer)

Linda Riebel
As an environmental educator and concerned citizen, I’m frequently disheartened about our seemingly conscious destruction of our planet. This it was a truly exciting eye-opener to read this missive from three leading thinkers about how industry, which many of us think of as the bane of the earth, can reverse course and make the change we need. All you have to do is read the daily paper to know that politicians won’t do it! The book is full of dozens of creative and inspiring examples of people r ...more
I am officially giving up on this book. I've had it checked out from the library for 6 weeks, and cannot bring myself to trudge through it anymore. Not that it's bad! But it does have a few strikes against it: a) It's heavy, which makes for a lousy commute; b) the print is tiny, which makes it seem insurmountable; c) I know next to nothing about economics or business, which means that much of that tiny print goes right over my head; and d) it was written 10 years ago, which means I have no idea ...more
Mason Wiebe
Written in 1999, this book maps out a plan for greatly increasing the efficiency and economic opportunities of our current capitalistic system, all while taking environmental harm, waste and degradation out of the picture. The authors argue that the knowledge and technology are there to achieve a waste-free, non-polluting, money and job generating society. This book is meticulously researched and written to appeal to more business minded people than myself, which is a good thing, as most environ ...more
Lage von Dissen
Capitalism as many know is an economic system based on private ownership of capital and the means of production, where the creation of goods and services are designed to make a profit. What most people don't know is that this system as its been implemented (and under-regulated) is completely unsustainable as it promotes the production of consumable products (rather than re-usable or longer lasting products), a high level of waste production, and environmental depletion in general. When we "borro ...more
Amaury Sautour
If you are already advanced in the process of looking for information about what's going on with the environment and what kind of solutions can and/or should be put in place - or should I say: if you already are a more open-minded, wiser and better person who cares about the outside world? - there is no need to read this book. It will likely state the obvious to you.
Rather, with some of its passages demonstrating how good can be accomplished in the world, I wish there were an english version of
This is a great book about natural resources, economics, and efficiency. The tone is upbeat, and a great deal of the book is storytelling of examples where things are cleverly engineered to make them astoundingly more efficient than their typical counterparts. One example: buildings engineered to need no heating/cooling systems, using things like great insulation, 'smart' windows, and shade trees to manage the temperature without conventional electrical systems. Another example: lightweight cars ...more
When I read Natural Capitalism I was quite enamored of it. However, since reading other material I have less enthusiasm for this book and the approach they generally describe (I've seen a documentary with the authors and read a number of news articles both by and about them). In order to work, many of their "solutions" require top down command and control economic framework which generally has a very poor record for using resources wisely.

Additionally, many of their predictions and/or time line
Nicole McCann
i read paul hawken's book "the ecology of commerce" while i was on vacation in thailand during a break in japan. i am such a nerd about this topic that i was underlining and taking notes, that's right, while on vacation in thailand! of course i was going to read his follow up book, "natural capitalism," duh! this book is quite dense and each chapter covers a different sector of the economy and natural resource area and talks thoroughly about what needs to happen, what's happening, and what the r ...more
I expected a lot from this book and, as is normal with expectations, they were not met. Not that the book isn't good but maybe I should have read it 10 years ago when I first picked it up. Time has a way of making some ideas seem dated, even if these ideas are still important. Tunneling through prices and looking at design as a whole rather than an accumulation of individual steps is important to keep in mind. Optimizing pieces of a puzzle on their own doesn't mean the whole is efficient. All go ...more
Rob Walter
I abandoned this book after a few chapters due to the fact that it didn't make much sense. Initially it promises to describe how, without any effort, the whole economy can - and in fact will - change to become sustainable. In fact, a sustainable economy is actually more efficient and more profitable than the one we have now, it promises.

Already there is a significant problem with this promise. If it's more profitable, and we can put our faith in the market, why isn't it already happening? This i
Hawken's work enlightens the reader about the depth of obvious contemporary issues regarding industry and modern life vs. the environment while suggesting possible solutions based on studies and approaches already executed by industry leaders and visionaries throughout the world. The writing style and overall narrative of the book may be a little too technical and academic at times, since it goes into painstaking detail (from statistics to lengthy study references) of the environmental impact of ...more
Jun 18, 2007 Pierre rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sustainable energy and environmental advocates
A generally uplifting book giving hope through economic principles in our capitalistic society to our most pressing environmental (climate change, solid waste, toxic waste) and energy (security, reliability, and cost) problems. Helps to break the opinion "barrier" that environmental quality must come at a price to a reduced quality of life and cost to our economy. Instead, the premise of the book offers bridges what is considered high quality environmental care from core ecological principles wi ...more
Nov 26, 2008 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every adult.
I really want to give this book 5 stars because it is incredibly important. The vision it sets forth is revolutionary. I mean that in the personal sense, creating a change in the readers mind which effects their own consciousness as well as that of all. Critically important concept, to value people and the planet's natural resources for what they contribute to the web of life itself rather than just the abstract financial and physical capital they are currently valued as. I gave it four stars be ...more
Michael Braithwaite
This book is decidedly dated in many ways. Written in 1998, Hawken tries his best to present viable options for a Utopian natural capitalist model. With all the doom and gloom surrounding corporate unwillingness to become environmentally sustainable, this book is definitely uplifting. Unfortunately, it's lacking statistics and other numbers that would make it seem like more than an environmentalist's pipe dream. Additionally, some of the ideas, such as the hydrogen fuel cell revolution, have sin ...more
Originally published in '99, I read this book 4 years ago, but had to reread it because of its unparalleled ability to provoke thought. This isn't just a book on economics or a book about saving the environment, this book represents the next evolution in economic thought. It posits that environmentalists and capitalists are not at odds in any way, in fact, they want the exact same things, namely to save resources and build a resilient (eco)system. I truly cannot say enough good things about this ...more
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