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I read this book about ten years ago when I was working on a total immersion class on Ecological Design organized by the Ecosa Intstitute. Ecosa was established by Prescott AZ based green architect Toni Brown. His course included a major focus on the book and ideas put forward in the book Natural Capitalism. The book is very inspirational in its tone which I appreciate. Its also goes into depth about the key elements in which capitalism would have to be modified to become natural capitalism.
A major force of Natural Capitalism is what co-author Amory Lovins calls a cost barrier breakthrough. Lovins discovered in his research if you approach a system in a holistic and comprehensive enough way in addressing its inefficiencies and facilitating a rethink of existing engineering practices, the resulting gains will be synergistic and compelling. This synergy in the design of energy management systems then leads to breaking through the cost barrier that often inhibits the implementation of serious and deep sustainability endeavors.
One question is that if this concept of breaking through the cost barrier is so compelling, then why has it not hit consumers lives more directly in the development of sustainable habitat creation and net zero design principles over the last ten years since this book has been published? Part of the possible explanation for this may be that people are still not seeing the need to make investments in more sustainable technologies and so that has limited market introductions of broad scale changes. The changes we have seen over the last ten years have been focused on the greening of Walmart and GE rather than in the proliferation of greener cars and houses so it has occurred under the radar of most Americans.
One criticism put forward by Paolo Soleri of Arcosanti fame (I live at Arcosanti) is that Natural Capitalism is not addressing the core problem of unsustainability - low density development and its companion over-consumption. In Soleri's view, trying to create more green technologies without reformulating and fundamentally altering the land use and development patterns, leads to false solutions. This breed to cynicism as efforts to green the economy in fact gain us little more than a "better kind of wrongness." He says that such thinking is not going to get us to a point where we can reduce the ecological impact of our economy to where it is not eating away at the principle of the our planetary resources.
To be sustainable, we have to design built environments and means of producing things so that we see that nature is not an infinite resource. Complementary to this is the idea of valuing nature and natural resources not just as commodities but as intrinsic values that are valuable all by themselves as they are the support systems that sustain life on earth (and not just human life).
With modern technology we have the illusion of suddenly having access to limitless resources. In reality with the advent of highly and sophisticated, advanced technologies, it is like we have just found a jar of money in the closet and we have gone on a spending spree with the new found money/wealth. Yet the problem is that we are now living off the principle of the planetary life support systems rather than the interest.
Thus that goes back to the very name of this book Natural Capitalism. To be sustainable the capital that drives our economy must be invested in innovative value creation structures that are not only remedial but also restorative of the vitality of natural systems. Central to this is what is termed biomimickry; the mimicking of biological synergistic tendencies through the development of appropriate technologies. The green movement for it to succeed in some form under the natural capitalistic model outlined by Lovins, Lovins and Hawken, must move societies towards efficient systems of production that lead to more value being created for more people per unit of consumption of resources. That is Natural Capitalism in a nutshell.
 

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