Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution Commentary/Review

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution is a book written by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins. The book was originally published in 1999.
I recently had the opportunity to read this book. This is a good book to read if you aren't too familiar with Energy and Resource topics.
Natural Capitalism states copious numerical facts, but the fact that stuck most deeply with me was the following: in the United States, the percent of raw materials that ends becomes consumer goods is about one percent (consumer good production efficiency). One percent is a disturbingly low number, for comparison, early steam engines had better efficiency! However, a steam engine is nowhere as complex as production cycles. There are several interesting implications from the consumer good production efficiency.
Current systems produce a lot of waste because they are inherently inefficient; if we take a look at nature, the established production systems that are “closed”. Every production step in nature produces products and byproducts that eventually restart the cycle; given that, ideally to minimize waste we would have to develop product cycles that utilized all the byproducts (whether directly or indirectly). The current employment structure also decreases production efficiency. Optimization is rarely taken in account, so employees are uncaring in the sense of not considering the accumulated consequences of their indifference towards production efficiency, after all doing enough to not get fired is enough for most. Employees tend to use more materials than are necessary, after all the capital punishment is minuscule. However, this does not infer that employees are bad people; simply they exist in a system that pushes environmental concern towards the bottom of the priority list. For example, in the engineering world, engineers are generally paid by percent of total project cost, as opposed to being paid by efficiency of design.
Natural Capitalism covers several recurring themes. The importance of imitating natural cycles is one of them. Natural cycles are inherently closed. Everything that is produced has a purpose. Nature perfected these systems through time, since non-self sustaining cycles eliminate themselves.
Natural Capitalism also covered the optimization of systems as opposed the optimization of individual components (intelligent design). Components are not just mechanical or material, but also human (social or employment construct). To further elaborate the importance of intelligent design, take the construction of a water pipe system that involves pumps. In this case, the smartest design for a system is the one that is most energy efficient. The human component that would complement this most adequately, would be a system in which employees are rewarded for energy saving designs (pretty straight forward in this case). Now for materials, say that pipe A is more efficient than pipe B and pump A is more efficient than pump B. However, using pipe A and pump A is only marginally more efficient than pipe B and pump B. However, the combination of pipe A and pump B is more efficient than the AA combination, thus in this situation a system with purely optimized individual components doesn’t yield the best results. This is more common place in real life than one assumes, however, in my particular example, the quantification of quality is very trivial, where as in real life problems, there are multiple characteristics involved in deciding what is most efficient.
Businesses, and the humans that run them, care a great deal about conserving capital. A point that Natural Capitalism makes is that taking strides towards conserving the environment can prove to be quite a lucrative business plan, as opposed to pre-emptive idea that such efforts hurt capital gains. The transition to hyper cars from traditional cars is an example. Traditional cars are made out of steel and use internal combustion engines. Hyper cars can be made from carbon fiber and utilize a hydrogen fuel cell. When comparing the body kits, steel is cheaper material-wise than the carbon fiber, but the carbon fiber is much easier to mold than the steel, so what might have initially seemed like a more expensive investment actually yields more capital. Furthermore, carbon fiber is much lighter than steel, thus fuel expenditure decreases (increasing “MPG”). Therefore, this transition would benefit the wallets of the owner and the environment.
Overall Natural Capitalism is a very good book to read, especially if you are not too familiar with Energy and Resource related topics. For my particular case, the book inspired me to be more conscious about the environment. While the book is a bit idealistic at times, it isn’t too farfetched, simply the percentage of the population aware and conscious about these issues needs to increase for significant change to occur. Nonetheless, I am glad there are pioneers that have taken the first steps to change.