Thursday, February 03, 2011
In today’s (February 3, 2011) Financial Times, Ed Crooks reviewed World on the Edge by Lester Brown, saying that it “manages to cover both the grand sweep of global trends and the fine detail of some of the ideas being developed in response.”
He also calls it “a provocative primer on some of the key global issues that businesses will face in the coming decades.”
“It provides a persuasive vision of the markets that are likely to present the greatest challenges, and the technologies and business models that have the greatest potential, in a world of escalating environmental and social problems.”
With concerns about global food security, we appreciate Crooks calling attention to two of the main inputs – water and cultivable land – which are becoming scarce. He writes, “Brown suggests that as well as nearing “peak oil” – the point at which global oil supplies can no longer be increased, and start to decline – we may also be approaching “peak water”.
“With 219,000 people being added to the world population every day, that will mean higher and increasingly volatile prices for water and food, and heightened international tensions over those issues. It will also create an urgent demand for new ideas for water supply, and improved productivity of water use.”
Crooks also notes that Lester provides solutions. “Like others in the new generation of “green business” book authors, he highlights the importance of raising energy efficiency: the one action companies can take that is just about guaranteed to improve the bottom line as well as helping the planet.”
“Trust in energy efficiency as a solution to environmental problems,” notes Crooks, “has come under attack recently because of what are known as “rebound effects”: if energy is used more efficiently, then its productivity increases, so businesses tend to use more of it. That only really applies if the price of energy remains constant, however, and in today’s world that seems unlikely. Brown’s examples, from the Empire State Building to China’s high-speed railways, give a good sense of how broadly the concept can be applied.”
“World on the Edge is a pretty good guide to what is likely to be a turbulent world.”
Next Wednesday, Lester will be speaking at Harvard's Center on the Environment and at the Cambridge Forum. See our Events page.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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