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Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy [Kindle Edition]

Amy Larkin
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An award-winning environmental activist and social entrepreneur exposes the link between our financial and environmental crises

For decades, politicians and business leaders alike told the American public that today's challenge was growing the economy, and that environmental protection could be left to future generations. Now in the wake of billions of dollars in costs associated with coastal devastation from Hurricane Sandy, rampant wildfires across the West, and groundwater contamination from reckless drilling, it's becoming increasingly clear that yesterday's carefree attitude about the environment has morphed into a fiscal crisis of epic proportions.

Amy Larkin has been at the forefront of the fight for the environment for years, and in Environmental Debt she argues that the costs of global warming, extreme weather, pollution and other forms of "environmental debt" are wreaking havoc on the economy. Synthesizing complex ideas, she pulls back the curtain on some of the biggest cultural touchstones of the environmental debate, revealing how, for instance, despite coal's relative fame as a "cheap" energy source, ordinary Americans pay $350 billion a year for coal's damage in business related expenses, polluted watersheds, and in healthcare costs. And the problem stretches far beyond our borders: deforestation from twenty years ago in Thailand caused catastrophic flooding in 2011, and cost Toyota 3.4 percent of its annual production while causing tens of thousands of workers to lose jobs in three different countries.

To combat these trends, Larkin proposes a new framework for 21st century commerce, based on three principles: 1) Pollution can no longer be free; 2) All business decision making and accounting must incorporate the long view; and 3) Government must play a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction. As companies and nations struggle to strategize in the face of global financial debt, many businesses have begun to recognize the causal relationship between a degraded environment and a degraded bottom line. Profiling the multinational corporations that are transforming their operations with downright radical initiatives, Larkin presents smart policy choices that would actually unleash these business solutions to many global financial and environmental problems.
Provocative and hard-hitting, Environmental Debt sweeps aside the false choices of today's environmental debate, and shows how to revitalize the economy through nature's bounty.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Consultant Larkin aims to inspire leadership in individuals and all corporate stakeholders who “hold the keys to the survival of the natural world in their daily decisions and actions.” Noting that everything depends on nature, her experience confirms that when environmental problems start to derail corporate success, action results. She uses the term environmental debt to mean “polluting and/or damaging actions that will cost other parties (people, businesses or governments) real money in the future.” The three underlying principles of the author’s Nature Means Business framework for twenty-first-century commerce are that pollution can no longer be free or subsidized, the long-term view must guide all decisions and accounting, and government plays a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction. She concludes, “Nothing except nature can transform the world as swiftly as can business—for better or for worse.” Larkin provides a perceptive perspective on important environmental issues that will serve as a valuable resource for many library patrons. --Mary Whaley


For anyone interested in environmental and economic policy, this is a fascinating, provocative book. Brisk, bold, and blunt, Larkin is a devastating critic of current business practices, but she wants to inspire, not scold. (Publishers Weekly)

Humankind's days of pillaging the earth for its resources are over. Today, a new strategy is needed if the global economy is to survive. Larkin's three guiding principles for 21st century commerce are required reading for anyone invested in a thriving business landscape as well as a healthy environment. (Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International)

Amy Larkin sounds the alarm of the coming economic crisis and calls for urgent actions to repair our relationship with nature. A committed environmentalist, she also knows firsthand how the business world gets real work done, and argues for pragmatism and common sense to undo environmental harm and re-make the future. As a business person and industrialist my entire career, I support Environmental Debt as part of an inclusive and well-rounded roadmap to make the world a better place. (John Hofmeister, retired President Shell Oil Company, founder/CEO Citizens for Affordable Energy, and author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies)

This book has an important message--pollution is not free. If the polluters do not pay the cost, others do in the form of increases in health costs, loss of property values, higher insurance rates and damages to crops, materials and public infrastructure. As fossil fuel consumption grows, these costs will mount. Regardless of one's political bent or world view, one cannot ignore Amy Larkin's powerful premise that putting a price on pollution--both carbon and conventional--will dramatically accelerate the transition to the cleaner energy systems that our world will need in the decades ahead. (Henry Lee is the Jassim M. Jaidah Family Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program within the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government)

Larkin offers a comprehensive framework to connect the causes of these crises to ensure businesses are not derailed by environmental problems. (The Irish Times)

Product Details

  • File Size: 5671 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade (June 25, 2013)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487,878 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatic and hopeful, a must read! November 12, 2013
After reading Amy Larkin's book, I was so inspired, I decided to volunteer with RESOLVE, an NGO working towards solutions for some of our most complex and conflicted environmental issues. Amy has been a tireless environmental activist who, in this well-documented analysis, clearly and powerfully illuminates the destructive impacts of business-as-usual, not only on the environment, but on our economy and ultimtely on our way of life. Unlike many other screeds cautioning about ecological devastation, however, Environmental Debt delineates market-based and pragmatic solutions to some of our problems, not just for the future but many that are being implemented right now. RESOLVE, with whom Amy is affiliated as a strategic partner, has been a part of some of these solutions.

As I devoured her book, my feelings of hopelessness and helplessness about the mess we have made here on planet earth morphed into stirrings of optimism and excitement. Perhaps we can't solve all of our problems with perfectly crafted solutions on the global and comprehensive scale required, but there are things that can be done as business and government and environmental groups work together. For example, large multi-nationals like McDonalds, Puma, Tiffany and Company, and Unilever have already taken steps to become more responsible environmnetal stewards. So perhaps all is not lost; and if so, I definitely want to be a part of the effort to make a difference.
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Amy Larkin’s well-written Environmental Debt pragmatically asserts that now is the time for larger corporations and their employees, citizens and their elected representatives, and concerned NGOs to get busy cooperatively in service of a healthier planet earth. To that end, she proposes a new conceptual framework – Nature Means Business -- a revolutionary yet pragmatic way to understand the relationship between corporate profit and the planet’s natural resources, some of which are perilously unstable (e.g., water). The bottom line is . . . you cannot have healthy businesses without having a healthy planet, too, so all costs must be accounted for. I finished this book enlightened, inspired and convinced by Amy's clear thinking and writing. I was also encouraged by the examples of "big businesses" that have already taken concrete actions in the direction of NMB.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It's a three star kind of book May 27, 2015
I really enjoy books on both economics and environmentalism. Larkin is able to draw the necessary links between the two and provide hopeful solutions based on previous practices of companies and governments. Overall, the book has some okay ideas and it gave great examples of steps currently being taken. However, I found that at times the message was lost in a desperate cry for unspecific action. I would have liked if the call to action in this book was a little more tactful. We have some serious environmental debt that needs to be acknowledge by governments, business, and individual citizens. I wouldn't run to the book store to buy this book, but if it is in easy reach it is a worthwhile read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening! August 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was gratified to find out that there are corporate entities that are actually proactive. There is hope yet. Also liked that there is a website included for action items.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enviormentalism and free market working together May 15, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This kind of information is revolutionary. It blows up the myth that our economy is currently, genuinely market-driven and frees our thinking to see green energy as an economically viable solution, especially when combined with the positive examples of what is being done not only by grass roots activists but at the heart of the corporate policy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you care about the earth and the future! September 18, 2013
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Amazing. Book. Easy read. Both amazingly informative and even hopeful at how some companies and professions are responding to the global need.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What You Expect June 25, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Environmental Debt is both a solid addition to existing books on the subject and a refreshing break-neither a simple anti-corporate screed, or a corporate apologist tome. You'll get a lot of good data and analysis through a business lens- in ways that will make you re-think how you approach the subject of global warming The book avoids the usual doomsday scenarios and finger pointing to celebrate work being done(often from some unlikely corners), talks about sobering challenges and adds in a world of ideas and solution. Infinitely readable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars November 5, 2014
By zeee
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book offers relevant information for today's world.
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