Paperback: 272 pages
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Nature and Ecology Editor’s Recommended Book
Paul Hawken, the entrepreneur behind the Smith & Hawken gardening supplies empire, is no ordinary capitalist. Drawing as much on Baba Ram Dass and Vaclav Havel as he does on Peter Drucker and WalMart for his case studies, Hawken is on a one-man crusade to reform our economic system by demanding that First World businesses reduce their consumption of energy and resources by 80 percent in the next 50 years. As if that weren’t enough, Hawken argues that business goals should be redefined to embrace such fuzzy categories as whether the work is aesthetically pleasing and the employees are having fun; this applies to corporate giants and mom-and-pop operations alike. He proposes a culture of business in which the real world, the natural world, is allowed to flourish as well, and in which the planet’s needs are addressed. Wall Street may not be ready for Hawken’s provocative brand of environmental awareness, but this fine book is full of captivating ideas.
From Kirkus Reviews , October 15, 1993
It’s not easy being green but, here, Hawken (Growing a Business, 1987, etc.) proposes a utopian scheme that, for all its good intentions, could make the process even harder. Proceeding from the assumption that the environmental depredations of profit-making enterprises “are destroying life on earth,” the author offers grim warnings on the status quo’s presumptive perils. Among other vague and unsourced claims, he asserts: “Given current corporate practices, not one wildlife reserve, wilderness or indigenous culture will survive the global economy.” Bolstering his worst-case scenario with evidence that’s longer on anecdotal vignettes than scientific data, Hawken goes on to present a three-point program in aid of what he calls a “restorative” economy. Among other recommendations, he calls for eliminating waste by recycling all resources; mandating the use of solar energy over fossil fuels; and encouraging diversity. Informed by an apparent antipathy toward big business, conspicuous consumption, mass production, and other of capitalism’s hallmarks, the Hawken agenda envisions some decidedly radical solutions to the problems of an advanced industrial society. Cases in point range from cutting Fortune 500 companies down to size through imposing controls on markets (which, though effective at setting prices, fail in Hawken’s view to reckon costs like pollution); nurturing smaller firms with government-supplied incentives; and levying penalty taxes on, say, farmers who use chemical (as opposed to organic) means of cultivation. Nor does Hawken much care for competition (“expensive and degrading for all involved”), advocating instead an interdependent private sector “that co- evolves with the natural and human communities it serves.” High-minded–if sometimes highhanded–prescriptions that will appeal to Hawken’s large readership–as well as to, no doubt, Chicken Littles everywhere. — Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.