Thursday, April 20, 2006

Factor Four - Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use

Factor Four: Doubling Wealth - Halving Resource Use: The New Report to the Club of RomeBy Ernst Von Weizsaecker, Amory B and L Hunter Lovins

A book written around a simple but appealing idea: we can double our wealth while halving our resource use. It has inspired a 'factor X' school of though (e.g. factor 10).

Its first part offers 50 examples to increase resource productivity, giving a wealth of information, but some examples are a bit extreme, and backup evidence is not easy to find (e.g. super refrigerators). Others are impractical (e.g. hypercars, not exactly the vehicle to bring the kids to school with). Claims in Factour Four are not traceable to a verifiable source.

A reader who expects after reading through 50 examples, a practical and economic case will be presented on Factor Four will be disappointed. The examples are left to speak for themselves. In the second part, the authors move into a call for action. A range of solutions is eloquently proposed, mainly to create new markets, or reshape existing ones (e.g. through tax reform) to obtain the desired results. Part 2 supports the book's role as manifesto.

In its final part, Factor Four touches on some of the wider boundaries of resource productivity, in particular the idea that GDP and welfare are becoming weakly correlated (for example, car accidents trigger a number of services that are accounted for in GDP, but welfare is destroyed). Also, there is the issue of trade - we may be falsely under the impression to be greening our society, while all we do is just exporting pollution.

Overall, Factor Four is a good discussion document and excellent manifesto for action. We should be pleased it has been written, but need to be critical while readin

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