Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use

Von Weizsäcker

Other authors: 
Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins

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THE BOOK'S TITLE contains its main point: that wealth can be doubled while also halving resource use. The authors give seven good reasons why the new approach is preferable to today's practices: we could all live better; pollute and deplete less; make money; harness markets and enlist business; multiply the use of scarce capital; increase international security; and be equitable and create more employment.

Different chapters in Section I illustrate how resource productivity could be greatly improved – for instance, in the case of energy, by using high efficiency cars, efficient household insulation innovations, environmentally friendly designs and more efficient electrical appliances and lights. Section I also considers ways in which we could revolutionize material productivity, introducing the concept of material inputs per service unit (MIPS). The notion of material productivity is illustrated by a series of examples, from durable office furniture to low MIPS cars, and water and material efficiency at home and in industry. Examples of recycling and re-use are also included. Transport is discussed, including examples of ways of making it more productive by a factor of four, such as through using e-mail, increasing railway efficiency, using surface metros such as the one in Curitiba (Brazil) and car-pooling.

Section II considers why many of these innovations are not on the market and describes how current incentive structures are centred around resource use rather than resource efficiency. It also discusses a series of techniques that can stimulate eco-capitalism – saving the earth for a profit – by showing new ways of attracting entrepreneurs to invest in resource efficiency. The section ends with a chapter on ecological tax reform as a way of redirecting investment, by reflecting the true costs of natural resources.

Section III considers the nature of the global environmental crisis and stresses the need for urgent change. The section starts with a look at the main themes of the UN Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 and moves on to the problem of waste generation. An analysis of the inadequacies of costly pollution control follows, suggesting the need to make environmental policy a profitable undertaking by optimizing resource use. The authors suggest that the world has 50 years to reduce greenhouse emissions to a level that will stabilize the climate. The final chapter of the section assesses the chances of doing this within the time limit.

The book ends on a more optimistic note, suggesting that by adopting Factor Four and its principles, there could be a brighter future. To attain this, we must first understand the difference between economic growth and well-being, we must manage international trade more efficiently in order not to hinder national governments in their implementation of coherent ecological and social policies and, finally, we must understand the non-economic and non-material values that are indispensable elements of human satisfaction.

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